France moves to ban the burqa

By Chris Giglio
Contributing Writer

As French lawmakers move to enact further bans on the burqa—an article of clothing many Muslim women wear—they should consider what they are really trying to solve. Burqas were banned from public schools in 2004, and in January of this year, a government-appointed committee concluded that all those who wear burqas should be barred from public services.

This move has found support from approximately 70 percent of French citizens and from both sides of the political spectrum. It is astonishing how much attention this issue has received, considering only about 2,000 of the 3.5 million Muslims living in France actually wear the burqa.

Those advocating the ban argue that though the numbers are small, the burqa stands against the ideals of the Republic. As French Republic President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “the full veil is contrary to the dignity of women.”

Indeed, many women wear the burqa because of the physical and social consequences that would result if they did not. It is also true that women voluntarily wear the burqa to express their religious piety. A ban on the burqa would violate core ideals concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms found in the French Constitution and the European Convention.

If the subjugation of women is the main concern, what’s to say the men exercising this oppression do not find other means to subjugate their women? To me, this ban is unconstitutional, ineffective and only serves to reinforce the idea that the French state is fundamentally against Islam.

Instead, I suggest that the government focus on the integration of Muslim communities in the form of developmental projects and through an affirmative action-type program. Currently, much of the Muslim population resides in pockets of poor housing projects throughout France. Most women who wear the burqa can be found in the most disconnected parts of these communities.

Integration would bring women who are pressured into wearing the full-veil garment in touch with the necessary social services to deal with this problem. For those women who choose to wear the burqa, integration would increase awareness of its true purpose in the general French population.

The current fixation on the burqa captures the increasing concern in Europe that the influx of Muslims from around the world is threatening the national identities and values of European states. Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark are also considering bans on the burqa.  If European governments choose to act on these fears through harsh laws, they will ensure that Muslim communities will continue to position themselves against European states. A commitment to integration is the right path, and if France pursues this strategy, the nation is in a perfect position to lead the way.

As French lawmakers move to enact further bans on the burqa—an article of clothing many Muslim women wear—they should consider what they are really trying to solve. Burqas were banned from public schools in 2004, and in January of this year, a government-appointed committee concluded that all those who wear burqas should be barred from public services. This move has found support from approximately 70 percent of French citizens and from both sides of the political spectrum. It is astonishing how much attention this issue has received, considering only about 2,000 of the 3.5 million Muslims living in France actually wear the burqa. Those advocating the ban argue that though the numbers are small, the burqa stands against the ideals of the Republic. As French Republic President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “the full veil is contrary to the dignity of women.” Indeed, many women wear the burqa because of the physical and social consequences that would result if they did not. It is also true that women voluntarily wear the burqa to express their religious piety. A ban on the burqa would violate core ideals concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms found in the French Constitution and the European Convention. If the subjugation of women is the main concern, what’s to say the men exercising this oppression do not find other means to subjugate their women?

To me, this ban is unconstitutional, ineffective and only serves to reinforce the idea that the French state is fundamentally against Islam.  Instead, I suggest that the government focus on the integration of Muslim communities in the form of developmental projects and through an affirmative action-type program. Currently, much of the Muslim population resides in pockets of poor housing projects throughout France. Most women who wear the burqa can be found in the most disconnected parts of these communities. Integration would bring women who are pressured into wearing the full-veil garment in touch with the necessary social services to deal with this problem. For those women who choose to wear the burqa, integration would increase awareness of its true purpose in the general French population.The current fixation on the burqa captures the increasing concern in Europe that the influx of Muslims from around the world is threatening the national identities and values of European states. Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark are also considering bans on the burqa.  If European governments choose to act on these fears through harsh laws, they will ensure that Muslim communities will continue to position themselves against European states. A commitment to integration is the right path, and if France pursues this strategy, the nation is in a perfect position to lead the way.

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