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France considers imposing ban on wearing burqas

Thursday May 9, 2009, Agencies

ALL COVERED: Many in France see the burqa as an infringement of women’s rights

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Paris: Secularism is the religion of contemporary France. And the enforcers of that faith have a new target.


“Today... we are confronted by certain Muslim women wearing the burqa, which covers and fully envelops the body and the head like a moving prison,” said Andre Gerin, a Communist Party legislator who joined 57 others on Wednesday in signing a motion for a parliamentary committee to study possible legislation to ban the wearing of the traditional costume in public. The legislators said the garment amounted “to abreach of individual freedoms on our national territory.”


France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, is strongly attached to its secular values and to gender equality, and many see the burqa as an infringement of women’s rights which is increasingly being imposed on women by radicals. The country has been divided by debates about how best to reconcile those principles with religious freedom.


“We have to be able to open a frank dialogue...about the place of Islam in this country...taking into account the slide towards fundamentalism (of some Muslims),” Gerin said. He said a growing number of Muslim women in France, not only in big cities but also in rural areas, were wearing burqas. The deputies did not say how many women were wearing burqas, though anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rise.


The legislators’ proposal echoed a controversy that raged for a decade in France about Muslim girls wearing headscarves in class. Eventually, a law was passed in 2004 banning pupils from wearing conspicuous signs of their religion at state schools. Critics say the law stigmatized Muslims at a time when the country should be fighting discrimination in the job and housing markets that has caused a rift between mainstream society and many youths from an immigrant background.

(The Times of India)
















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