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France begins the hearing on Hijab Ban

Saturday, July 04, 2009 10:01:51 AM, Agencies

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Paris: Experts said the Government should act to discourage Muslim women from wearing the head-to-toe veil as the French lawmakers opened the hearings Wednesday on whether to ban the hijab.

 

Home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, France has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil.

 

President Nicolas Sarkozy had recently said the hijab or the veil used by Muslim ladies that covers them from head to toe was not welcome in secular France. His assertiona and the observation that the Hijab is "a sign of subservience" were greeted by widespread condemnations from all across the globe. 

 

At the first hearing, two academics described wearing hijab as a throwback to a form of archaic Islam and a type of cult-like behavior, incompatible with modern France.

 

The full veil is embraced by hardliners who tell Muslim women to cover themselves as a way to “get back to their roots", Abdennour Bidar, described as an “Islam expert” said to the lawmakers.

 

“It’s up to the republic to help Islam in our country choose its destiny and help French Muslims resist this pressure,” said Bidar during the hearing before adding, “We must find ways to prevent the burqa from spreading. Whether that would be a law or something else is not for me to say.”

 

Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar said young women had in recent years taken to wearing the full veil after being indoctrinated by “gurus” who pervert Islam’s teachings. “Even imams are having difficulties countering this type of message,” she said, adding that there was nothing in the Qur’an that dictated to women that they must fully cover themselves.

 

Stating that Hijab entered Islam’s history a little more than 70 years ago Bouzar argued, "Measures be adopted under France’s security laws barring citizens from concealing their identities by covering their faces, be it with a niqab, a ski mask or even a paper bag. Such a measure would apply equally to all citizens and ensure that France’s five million Muslims do not feel stigmatized for their religion."

 

As the hearings got underway, the leader of the governing right-wing majority in parliament came out in favor of a law banning the hijab but said it should be preceded by a period of “dialogue” of six months to a year.

 

“We must prohibit what should be prohibited but only after having explained why,” said Jean-Francois Cope, a leading figure in Sarkozy’s UMP party, in an interview to Le Parisien newspaper.

 

France has had a long-running debate on how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam without undermining the tradition of separating church and state, enshrined in a flagship 1905 law. In 2004, it passed a law banning headscarves or any other “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools to defend secularism.

 

 

 

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