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Monday, September 6, 2010

Protests Against Burqa Bans and Roma Expulsion

President Sarkozy of France has created a stir as a result of his order to expel illegal Roma immigrants from France, and for his pushing for a ban on the public wearing of Burqas. This weekend there were organized protests in several European cities supportive of the right of Romas to not be summarily tossed out of France. The French have, in fact, been publicly criticized by the European Commission for at least some aspects of this policy. However, public opinion polls in France suggest that nearly two in three French support the expulsion policy, so the French government seems to be paying little heed to the protests.

The French Senate is considering a bill that would ban not simply burqas, but the public wearing of any face veil. The bill has already passed the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament, and is expected to be voted upon by the Senate this month.

Ensuring gender equality, woman's dignity and security are the official reasons France wants to outlaw Islamic veils, most often worn as "niqabs" that hide all but the eyes. Authorities insist the global ban — which would include visiting foreigners — is not anti-Muslim.

That some other European countries like Belgium are considering similar legislation — and Muslim countries like Syria and Egypt have instituted their own limited bans on face veils — may help bolster the French argument, but not win the debate.
Moderate Muslim leaders in France and elsewhere agree that Islam does not require women to cover their faces, but many are uncomfortable with banning the veil. Scores of religious leaders have denounced the measure, and are struggling with what to advise the faithful.
The issue if obviously complex since some argue that the veil represents a very public symbol of societally-sanctioned subjugation of women. If women are required to have their face covered in public, as in Saudi Arabia, then that interpretation is almost certainly correct. However, if a woman chooses to cover her face, for whatever reason, it is hard to discern why she should be prohibited from doing so.
UPDATE--the French Senate did pass the bill banning the wearing of veils in public. If upheld Constitutionally by a panel of judges, it will become law early in 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes we wrongfully support cultural customs becasue we feel we need to be openly accepting of other beleifs regardless of where they come from or what they stand for. This is counterproductive and downright wrong. It's all good and great to be supportive of other customs, this is necessary, but when a culture's customs include a practice which is clearly suppressive of human rights, than we need to take a stand as a global society and say, "wait a second, this isn't right." With an issue such as this, banning the burqa is not restrictive of human rights, the cultural wearing of the burqa is restrictive of human rights.