French Language Blog

Banning the Burqa: Une nouvelle loi française Posted by on Jul 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

Aujourd’hui, l’Assemblée nationale (Today, the National Assembly) a voté (voted for) l’interdiction du port du voile intégral. A law banning the full-face veil, or voile intégral, has already been passed in the lower house of le parlement belge (Belgian parliament). When we discussed that law in April (The Burqa Ban in Belgium, April 30), le débat a été assez chaud. Our discussion was pretty heated, with many opinions on the appropriateness of the law and the future of the veil in Western Europe.

Toujours au centre de la discussion actuelle de la culture et de l’identité française (still at the center of the current discussion of French culture and identity), abordons un peu la nouvelle loi (let’s discuss a bit the new law)

La loi prohibe (the law prohibits) “la dissimulation du visage,”which is the hiding of one’s face, not necessarily the wearing of a burqa or niqab. Mais elle “interdit de fait le port du niqab ou de la burqa dans tout l’espace public” (“L’Assemblée nationale vote l’interdiction du port du voile intégral”). The same article notes that only 2,000 women are thought to be affected by the new law.

The law is being reviewed by le Conseil d’État (the Council of State, France’s highest legal advisory body), who will consider its compatibilité with la constitution française et la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (the French constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights). The concern is that the freedom of those 2,000 women to openly practice their religion is curtailed by the new law for no reason other than their religious identity.

This conflict between la laïcité de l’État (the secularism of the state), l’égalité(equality) et la liberté des citoyens (the freedom of citizens) calls into question some of France’s dearest principles. The consensus in the French government appears to be anti-burqa/niqab, as evidenced by the abstention of the opposition parties from today’s vote “tout en étant résolument opposée(s) au port du niqab et de la burqa” (while being resolutely opposed to the wearing of the niqab and the burqa).

It’s hard to see this as a constructive step in France’s evolving conception of its identité nationale. In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy created a Ministère de l’Immigration, de l’Intégration, de l’Identité nationale et du Développement solidaire(Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development). The creation of the ministry was controversial, with Doudou Diène, rapporteur spécial de l’ONU contre le racisme (special rapporteur, or investigator, of the UN against racism), recognizing it as une « lecture ethnique et raciale des questions politiques, économiques et sociales et le traitement idéologique et politique de l’immigration comme un enjeu sécuritaire et comme une menace à l’identité nationale » (voir l’article).

Diène’s reconnaissance, that France is assigning an ethnic and racial reading to political, economic and social questions, and treating immigration as a security issue and menace to national identity, is, for me, spot-on. Instead of voting 335 to one for legislation against la voile musulmane (the Muslim veil), perhaps France could agree to recognize that it is on the wrong path in treating an unfamiliar racial or ethnic issue as a threat worthy of legislation. Opening an honest and inclusive debate on the question might achieve more stabilité than the proposed €150 amende (fine).

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  1. AC:

    Nice article, Jennie. For more in-depth reading that supports France’s side (anti-burqa), check out Ayan Hirsi Ali’s books (Infidel and Nomad). Before reading her books, I agreed with host countries accomodating immigrants; her perspective is a unique one, but very worth considering.

  2. Alain Coret:

    Je ne comprend pas quel est le probleme en France pour passer une loi contre le port d’un “masque” dans notre pays. C’est simple pourtant! Le port du voile et tous le reste qui suit est contre les meurs et culture du “Francais” donc si nous n’en voulons pas dans notre pays c’est notre droit de banir cela sans avoir a rendre compte au monde entiers. Si les musulmans ont un probleme avec cela ils ont juste a faire “marche arriere” et retourner chex eux ou ils ont le droit de se cacher le visage si cela leur plait, mais pas en France – terminer! Ils sont recu et accepter comme immigrants avec nos lois et notre culture et doivent accepter cela sans vouloir changer notre pays sinon – marche arriere – pas plus.
    Je voudrais bien voir leur reaction si nons irions chez eux et essayer de changer leur culture – on finirait en prison ou a la porte de leur pays. Arretons la demagogie et dirigons notre pays comme nous voulons sans pour cela rendre compte au immigants et le reste du monde.
    Le president a dit, “la France vous l’aimer ou vous la quitter” et je suis 100% derriere ce sentiment.

  3. Chief Thunder:

    The Burqa, Niqab and all veils covering the majority of the face were banned not to stomp on anyone’s religious identity, or even for the purpose of women’s rights, but rather for the same reason why you can’t just walk around in a mask any other day but Halloween in the US– it promotes crime when people are permitted to hide their face/identity, and there is absolutely no rational argument to the contrary.

  4. K. S.:

    What would happen to me, a woman, if I were to walk the streets in a mini skirt and sleeveless top in a Muslim country?

    I would be arrested.

    For that reason, I will never relocate to a Muslim country. If I were to visit such a location, however, I would dress much more conservatively than I do in the U.S.

    If a fundamentalist Muslim woman wants to relocate in a Western country, she should be willing to dress according to the customs of the country she “chose” as her new home.

    It is not her entire dress the authorities object to, it is only the covering of the face.

    Actually as a free woman, born and raised in the West, I find it shocking that any woman is subjected to such rule in 2010.

    As a woman, I have no choice but to be against any religion that oppresses women, whether they willingly accept the oppression or not.