Two-thirds of French people want a law limiting the use of face-covering Islamic veils such as the niqab and the burqa, with only a minority backing the government’s plan for a complete ban, a recent poll has shown. The TNS Sofres/Logica poll showed that 33 percent of French people want a complete ban, while a further 31 percent want a more narrow law applying only to certain public spaces.
The results of the survey of 950 people were roughly the same for men and women. Support for some kind of legal restriction on the full veil cut across age groups, professions and political affiliation, though it was stronger among right-wing voters — more than 80 percent of them favored a law. By opting for a complete ban, Sarkozy is taking a constitutional gamble since the practice of veiling oneself can be defended on the grounds of religious freedom.
A narrower law asking women to bare their faces in town halls or when they pick up their children from school would have been less legally risky, since it could have been justified as a security measure rather than a question of values.
This Le Figaro report suggests that both moderate and radical Muslims in France seek support on the web, that the Imam is only one of many possible guides. While it offers a place for more fundamentalist interpretations like Salafism from Saudi Arabia, the internet is also revolutionizing Muslim thought.
As Jocelyne Cesari, a scholar of Islam at Harvard University, explains, the web allows access to a multitude of perspectives, from orthodox positions to those from outsiders or liberals. This range is apparent on topics as broad as veiling to translations of the Koran. This “democratization” of the sacred text has allowed a greater number of interlocutors on all matters related to Islam.
The head of Venice’s Ca’ Rezzonico museum in Venice apologized to a Muslim woman who was asked to leave the building by a guard, because she was wearing a veil over her face. “I’m sorry for what happened and if she ever wants to return to our museum, she will be more than welcome,” said director Filippo Pedrocco. The unnamed woman was visiting the museum with her husband and children, and had successfully cleared security upon entering the building. However, a guard on the second floor told her that she must remove her face veiling, or niqab. The woman refused to take off the veil, and left the art museum. Italian media reported that the guard was a part-time worker and had been employed by an outside security firm, and would be disciplined for his actions and risked being fired.
Agrolimentaria, an agricultural company with about 300 employees in the Murcian neighborhood of Torre Pacheco, must be allowed to employ veiled Muslim women as part of their workforce. The company has about 300 employees involved in the packaging of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce – half of these employees are Arab women. The company will allow women to use their own veils, but may also supply their own during working hours. Many companies like Agrolimentaria condemn the veiling of Muslim women, citing reasons related to hygiene.