Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

BUSINESS DAILY

Investors take fright over Google results

Read more

DEBATE

What's Putin's Plan? Kiev Accuses Russia of Terrorism

Read more

DEBATE

What's Putin's Plan? Kiev Accuses Russia of Terrorism (part 2)

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Rwandan singer amongst terror plot suspects

Read more

FOCUS

Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: Online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

ENCORE!

Art, sex, money, memory and manga

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Spat over Iran's UN ambassador hampers thawing relations with US

Read more

FOCUS

China trade deal: Is Taiwan's identity under threat?

Read more

  • Algeria heads to the polls: ‘This election has nothing to do with us’

    Read more

  • Frantic search for survivors of sunken South Korea ferry

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine to begin in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

  • Syria 'torture' photos silence UN Security Council members

    Read more

  • Paris laboratory loses deadly SARS virus samples

    Read more

  • More than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in northeast Nigeria

    Read more

  • New York police disband unit targeting Muslims

    Read more

  • 'Miracle girl' healthy after seven-organ transplant in Paris

    Read more

  • Paris police memo calling for Roma eviction ‘rectified’

    Read more

  • Burgundy digs into France's bureaucratic 'mille-feuille'

    Read more

  • French court drops ‘hate speech’ case against Bob Dylan

    Read more

  • Algeria rights crackdown slammed ahead of election

    Read more

France

Security tight as French parliament debates burqa ban

©

Video by Jade BARKER , Carlotta Ranieri

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-07

France's parliament is debating a controversial bill on banning the full Islamic veil for a second day on Wednesday, despite concerns that the move might be unconstitutional as well as risk marginalising the country’s sizable Muslim minority.

A bill that would ban wearing full Islamic veils in public is being debated by the French parliament Wednesday and is expected to face little opposition from the Socialist Party, despite concerns that the draft could be seen as an affront to France’s sizable Muslim community and might eventually be deemed unconstitutional.  

The text of the bill, drafted by Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, would make it illegal for anyone to wear an “item of clothing that hides the face” in the street or in any public space.
 
A guide to the four main types of Muslim veil
As the National Assembly opened the three-day debate on Tuesday, Alliot-Marie told parliamentary deputies that wearing face coverings "amounted to being cut off from society and rejecting the very spirit of the French republic".
  
"At a time where our societies are becoming more global and complex, the French people are pondering the future of their nation,” she said. “Our responsibility is to show vigilance and reaffirm our commonly-shared values."
 
Security was tight at the parliament building in downtown Paris Wednesday, with security officials employing sniffer dogs at the entrance to the building. While similar measures are pending in neighbouring Belgium and Spain, France’s move to ban the burqa has been particularly controversial as it is home to Europe’s largest Muslim community (although only about 1,900 French residents -- according to the government’s own estimate -- wear the full head-to-foot garment).
 
The bill is the pet project of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has said the full-face veil, which is sometimes referred to as the burqa or niqab, is “not welcome” in France. “It's not a religious symbol, but a sign of subservience and debasement,” Sarkozy declared in his state of the nation address last year.
 
An infraction of the ban, which would also apply to tourists, could carry a €150 fine. In addition, any person found to be forcing a woman to don the face-covering veil could be sentenced to one year in prison and fined up to €30,000.
 
The draft bill calls for a six-month “educational” period before sanctions would be enforced, beginning in the spring of 2011. The law would also grant police the discretion to waive the monetary penalties and instead order offenders to take a civics course on French secularism.
  
Constitutional obstacle
 
While the opposition Socialist Party originally declared itself against the law months ago, it has since changed its position and will argue that the ban should be limited to state institutions and should not be enforced on the street. They have said they will abstain from the parliamentary vote, slated for July 13.
 
The Socialists also note that France's State Council, a top judicial authority, has warned the government that a total ban on the veil in all public places might be deemed unconstitutional. The State Council has the power to veto the legislation.
 
Jean-Francois Cope, who heads the ruling UMP party in parliament, said on Wednesday that the Constitutional Council should review whether such a law would be constitutional before the bill goes any further, so that its legitimacy "cannot be contested".
 
The veil issue has become a focus in the ongoing, thorny debate surrounding Islam and France’s secular political system, which rigorously separates church and state. Some argue that a ban could further strain relations with Muslim communities both at home and abroad.
 
At the opening of a Mosque near Paris in June, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon sought to make a distinction between Islam as it is practiced in France from how it is observed by Muslims elsewhere. “You should stand in the front line against this hijacking of the religious message,” Fillon urged the audience.
 
But the French Muslim Council, a government advisory body, has pronounced itself against the draft bill. “We think that a general ban is absolutely not the solution,” Council President Mohammed Moussaoui has said. 
 
"Rather than enacting a law barring women from expressing their malaise, we should think about what prompted them to want to cover themselves," Moussaoui told lawmakers in May.
 
European clampdown
 
The parliamentary debate in France follows a similar move by Belgian lawmakers who voted overwhelmingly in favour of a similar ban in April, paving the way for the first clampdown of its kind in Europe.
 
In June, Spain’s senate narrowly approved a motion to ban the full Islamic veil in public places.
 
Amnesty International has urged European lawmakers to oppose bills outlawing the full veil, saying these texts betray the rights of Muslim women who choose to wear them. The group says a ban could rob these women of the freedom to move about freely in society.
 
“Amnesty International does not believe that such important values as liberty, equality and fraternity can be advanced by such a discriminatory restriction,” the organisation said in a statement to French senators.
 
If the lawmakers approve the draft bill it will be sent to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, in September.

 

Date created : 2010-07-06

  • FRANCE

    Wearing full Islamic veil could land women in 'citizenship' school

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Women immigrant outreach groups steer clear of burqa debate

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Top legal body says law banning burqa could be challenged

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)