May 3, 2012
In the presidential debate on May 3rd (prior to the final election of May 6, 2012) Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to take similar positions when it came to special treatment for France’s large Muslim community.
Hollande said he would not allow separate menus in public cafeterias or separate hours in swimming pools for men and women to satisfy Muslims’ demands, and also said he would firmly support France’s ban on the face-covering Islamic veils.
Sarkozy said there must be an Islam “of” France and not an Islam “in” France. He also vaunted his ban on the niqab in France.
This article from Le Figaro Magazine includes passages from a new book Sous Mon Niqab [Under my Niqab] by Zeina (Plon, 2010), a young Muslim woman who sought to be liberated from her niqab in France.
This short article examines the question of how the number of women wearing full-face veils in France is counted. At the beginning of the controversy, a study undertaken by the DCRI (Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur) for Le Monde counted 367 niqab-wearing women. This number according to the DCRI is an estimate. Several weeks later in the fall of 2009, the minister of the interior claimed there were 1900 such women, or approximately 0.03% of the population.
The president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) Mohammed Moussaoui reminded the press that they are in favor of a possible law which would ban the burqa and niqab in France.
France’s top administrative body has advised the government against a complete ban on the full Islamic veil, instead suggesting outlawing the burqa in some places for security reasons. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is planning to present a bill to parliament in the coming weeks to restrict Muslim women from wearing full-face veils such as the niqab or burqa. Prime Minister Francois Fillon asked the State Council in
January 2010 for a legal opinion before drafting the bill that he said would ban the burqa in as many places as possible.
But in its report, the council warned that a blanket ban would likely not stand up to a court challenge and that there were no legal grounds for it. The council said however that the government could invoke security and public order to require that faces be uncovered in public venues such as courts, schools, hospitals and during university exams, for example.
The council however did not spell out the specific places where the ban could be enforced and suggested that local prefects who represent the state in French departments could issue directives. Muslim women who insist on covering themselves in violation of the law should be spared from paying a fine and instead be referred for counseling to a women’s rights association, the council said.
The French government is planning to require new immigrants to sign a contract recognizing that the face-veil is banned in France. “Equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of French society,” Families Minister Nadine Morano told French Radio, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). “The same applies to the full veil.”
At present, newcomers are stipulated to sign the contract stating that polygamy and forced marriages are not allowed in France.”I also want to add that female genital mutilation is strictly prohibited,” said Morano.
This timeline describes the recent legislation and announcements on the headscarf/hijab/burqa/niqab in France since 2004.
French sociologist and historian of secularism, Jean Baubérot, explained to a parliamentary meeting on the burqa and niqab in France that a ban is untenable as it would be inefficient and complicated to enforce. Bauberot noted that a ban would further ostracize the French Muslim community, even if many of its members are also against full-face coverings. He stressed that “between the permitted and the illegal is the tolerated.” Researcher Fahrad Khosrokhavar and Jean-Michel Comte, president of the Teacher’s League, also voiced their positions against a ban. The commission will report its finding at the end of January 2010.
A coalition has come together in the National Assembly of members who wish to consider women who wear the burqa and the niqab in the French territory. 58 deputies (43 from President Sarkozy´s Union for a Popular Movement or UMP) from different parties signed a proposition put forward by André Gerin (Rhône) to create a new government commission to consider the implications of the practice in France. Gerin claims that the practice is increasingly common. The suggestion has created much debate. Government spokesperson Luc Chatel told the media that, “If it were determined that wearing the burka is a submissive act, and that it is contrary to republican principles [. . .] parliament would have to draw the necessary conclusions.” There are currently no figures which indicate the actual number of women who wear the burqa or the niqab in France. The author of Musulmans de France (Éditions Robert Laffront, 2007) estimates there to be between 30,000-50,000 Salafists in the Republic.
Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) told reporters, “We are shocked by the idea parliament should be put to work on such a marginal issue.” Fadela Amara, however, pushed for action, claiming alarm for the number of women “who are being put in this kind of tomb”. Sihem Habchi, president of NPNS (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) echoed Amara, noting the group´s support of such a commission. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Mosque of Paris, also supports the idea of a new inquiry, saying that face covering of women is a fundamentalist practice not prescribed by Islam. Should the remainder of the house agree to the commission, it would draft a report to be released no later than November 30, 2009.