BBC BLOGS - Gavin Hewitt's Europe
« Previous | Main | Next »

Banning the burka

Gavin Hewitt | 08:35 UK time, Monday, 11 April 2011

PARIS As I write this blog, a young woman from the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois is breaking the law. Even while she is dropping off her three-year-old at nursery she is breaking the law.

For from today the wearing of full-face veils in France is banned. Overnight the woman from the suburb has become a dissenter. She says no law should tell her what she can't wear. She also believes that her faith trumps French law, and therein lies her problem in an avowedly secular French Republic.

Failure to obey the law could lead to a 150-euro (£133, $217) fine and being sent to citizenship classes. A criminal record might follow.


French Muslim women in niqab - file pic

Perhaps, most significantly, anyone found forcing a woman to cover her face risks a 30,000-euro fine.

The burka or niqab is worn by very few in France - perhaps 2,000 women. The Muslim population is estimated at five million. Today - most probably - a few women will be defiant. Protesters against the new law are set to gather close to the flying buttresses of Notre Dame cathedral.

The police have orders to be restrained and respectful. The niqab-wearers, if any show up, will probably today be handed a leaflet. The authorities have printed 400,000 with the message that "the Republic lives with its face uncovered". A few women will see themselves as martyrs for a cause and already have their eye on the European Court of Human Rights. A businessman has offered to pick up any fines.

This law is about putting down a marker. As I have written before, many European leaders now believe that multiculturalism can lead to parallel, segregated communities. A new emphasis is being placed on minority communities integrating into the society they join, rather than just living as they did before. So Western societies are becoming more assertive about the values they uphold and the ones they expect others to respect.

Jean-Francois Cope, the French MP who has taken a lead over the burka ban, argues that seeing someone's face is key to human beings understanding each other. He sees the law as a step against separation.

The Muslim community is divided. It is made up of many voices and many views. Some believe it is important to become part of modern France. Some support the ban. Some don't. Some Muslim women wear headscarves. Many don't. Some believe that the Koran calls for a woman's face to be covered. Others say that such teachings appear in the works of scholars, not the Koran itself. There are Muslim women running companies; there are those discouraged from leaving their houses. Some wear dark headscarves, some are brightly coloured. A few hide their faces, while others are comfortable with heavy eye-liner and bright lipstick.

Ultimately this is an argument between those who believe that living in France demands that you sign up to certain French values and those who say that tolerance should allow you to dress how you want and to respect religious diversity.

The law is likely to be largely symbolic. There will be few prosecutions and it will be difficult to prove that a woman is being forced to wear a niqab because of her husband or family. Over time some women will choose not to wear it. Some shops stocking the niqab already say they will discontinue stocking it.

I suspect that this ban will generate a vibrant debate between Muslims. There are indications it has started already. Some say that the full-face veil is not a religious statement. It is purely cultural. Others say that it belongs to a strand of Islam. Others say that the wearing of headscarves is about asserting identity in a Western Europe that can still be frosty towards outsiders. Within traditional families there are daily arguments about how to live in a society that offers so much choice. Freedom can split families, as it has done with other religions.

What the French authorities want to avoid, at all costs, is a confrontation which could turn a debate about the covering of faces into whether the Muslim community is being singled out for special treatment.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    I am glad the french government is at last tackling the issue with religious extremism, especially muslims. The problem is that a large number of muslims will feel targeted, but it can not be brushed aside.

    There are already schools in France that serve only halal meat, swimming pool hours reserved for women only, and people praying in the street when a mosque is available a couple of underground stations away.

    It is time to reclaim the public space. The fight has already been fought and won against christians 'intrusiveness' into public life (no meat on friday and stuff like that), now the muslim are testing "laïcité" again.

    And finally, to people who say the state should not say what to wear and what not to wear, I don't think people are allowed naked in town centers anywhere? There is always some rules for society to work properly. It is not acceptable to walk naked in a town center, it is not acceptable to walk will full cover in a town center. Sounds fair to me. People talk about making immigrants feel confortable in their host country. What about them making their hosts feel comfortable by not wearing such garment?

  • Comment number 2.

    We should follow the French example and ban wearing the veil in public places.



  • Comment number 3.

    So where does the ban end? Do they stop people covering their faces with headscarves, hoodies or balaclavas? Remember, Big Brother is watching you.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with Commodus and he or she has said most of what I would say. I would like to stress that the wearing of the niqab or burqa is not a religious requirement. The Koran requires women to dress modestly so as not to inflame men's passions (my words, not the Koran's). Dressing modestly should offend noone and may involve the wearing of a headscarf, and nobody should have a problem with that. France long ago saw through the myth of multi-culturalism and opted for uni-culturalism - if you ive in France you accept French culture. You have a private spere where you can do what you like within reason (i.e. as long as it does not damage anyone else's private sphere) but in public life you accept the French way. As the article points out, France has gone a long way to accommodating Muslim religious laws by laying on Halal meat in schools or allowing women-only bathing sessions in public baths and so on. The French are rugged individualists who respect everyone's freedom to live as they want - I know, I lived for years in France and speak the language and understand the culture, and I love the people. However they draw the line at the rejection of French culture evidenced by the wearing of clothes that completely cover the body, head and face, and I must say I agree with that view. When I speak with someone I want to see their face, their expressions, their reactions. I do not want to be confronted by a blank piece of cloth. We have people living in Western cultures who cover their hair . nuns and Sikhs for example - and I have no problem with that. At least we can see their faces. I support this new law in France and would support its introduction in any Western country.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great thing French government did. I will like other non-muslim governments to follow this as well. In Muslim countries they force to do how they want it like in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan etc. This is really symbolic as if you need freedom for urself please give the same to others (non-muslims in muslim countries). Muslims should not mind it & tell to the Islamic countries to give freedom.

  • Comment number 6.

    This will be an interesting test of the ECHR. If the court rules that the French ban on burka’s is valid, while having ruled that the British ban on prisoners voting is not, then one wonders if the ECHR know what human rights are at all.

    The Strasbourg court increasingly seems to use its judicial rulings to export the iilliberal norms of the majority in france, rather than to protect the rights of minorities against that majority.

  • Comment number 7.

    #1 Commodus

    Excellent post !
    Yes , Why should people make immigrants feel comfortable in their country , when immigrants do nothing to adapt or conform to the ways and customs of the country . Women wearing a Burka or Niquab cause a shock to European people , who see this dress as oppression of women , that causes offence . In western countries we are free to dress how we like , as long as we do not cause offence , nudity offends and so does a completely covered black figure . In secular countries people are offended by open displays of religion ; you go to a church or mosque to worship . Peoples of other religions do not go to predominantly muslim countries and make a public show of their religion and would be in severe trouble if they did .
    If people are not willing to integrate adapt to the customs ways and laws of the country they immigrate to , they should stay in their own country .

  • Comment number 8.

    "As I write this blog, a young woman from the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois is breaking the law. Even while she is dropping off her three-year-old at nursery she is breaking the law."

    How do you known this face-covered person is a woman?
    How do we know this face-covered person is the mother of the 3-year old ?

  • Comment number 9.

    While I agree with the French stand against face coverings, would it not then follow that non-Muslims visiting or living in Muslim controlled countries should cover up, respecting the social conventions that apply. After all, this is all the French are doing. If you want to live like the French, don't cover your face: If you want to live in a Muslim country then cover your face.

    As Huaimek states above: "If people are not willing to integrate adapt to the customs ways and laws of the country they immigrate to , they should stay in their own country" I'm pretty sure this goes both ways.

    I should state that there is no place in my world for this superstitious claptrap so, if you visit my house, where my social rules apply, there will be NO religion at all, let alone the trappings of it.

  • Comment number 10.

    #6 Freeborn John

    "The Strasbourg court increasingly seems to use its judicial rulings to export the iilliberal norms of the majority in France, rather than to protect the rights of minorities against that majority."

    And so it should ! I believe the ECHR abuses its powers as in the case of British prisoners voting . That should be at the discression of the individual country .
    Personally I would abolish the ECHR altogether , along with the ECJ ; perhaps I should add The Euro and the EU .

  • Comment number 11.

    3. At 10:07am 11th Apr 2011, JeffGreen wrote:
    So where does the ban end? Do they stop people covering their faces with headscarves, hoodies or balaclavas? Remember, Big Brother is watching you."


    'Big Brother'! Utter nonsense!

    Read the article, research the new French Law: Nothing of the sort could be clearer - - it does not apply only to Niqab, but to all 'full-face' coverings in public (with exceptions for certain festivals & activities that require such head-gear).

    Why don't You think/assume 'Big Brother' about females from a very young age having to wear such socially objectionable clothing and think/assume this law is a 'little liberating'!?

  • Comment number 12.

    I think commodus' post basically nails it on the head.

    Multiculturalism as an idea does not work, you cannot mix Western Christian values with Islamic Sharia values as they conflict on too many things.
    So all that happens is too very different cultures emerge splitting society down into highly insular groups. This is not good for a country and should be discouraged.
    It seems that the west has done all the compromising when Muslims decide to move here, and it is time that they learned compromise is a 2 way thing.

  • Comment number 13.

    The burka is a symbol of oppression. It's not even able to hide under the protective blanket of 'religious expression' as it's entirely an Islamic cultural choice and not something dictated by the Koran.

    That some women would choose to wear a symbol of such oppression or be happy with the status quo of inequality should be of real concern to people.

    Multiculturalism and acceptance of other cultures only goes so far. We do not accept things as distasteful as female circumcision in modern western civilisation, nor do we accept slavery,arranged marriages or honour killings.

    We shouldn't accept that women are forced to dress in such a manner in modern times, even if women that are currently content to do so feel they are losing out from this ban.

  • Comment number 14.

    I am a lipreader and depend on seeing a person's face to understand them. This is not unusual - around 30% of the population at large has at least some sort of hearing loss and these people also face-read, albeit unconsicously.

  • Comment number 15.

    When at a museum in the North of England a few years ago, we saw a group of muslim schoolchildren come into the foyer shepherded by female teachers wearing the niqab. I was very annoyed with myself for feeling annoyed with the teachers. I felt that normally people can wear whatever they want providing it doesn't offend others. But this time I felt annoyed with them and even (daft I know) threatened by the expression of two womens' culture that was so very unyielding to the culture of the country they had chosen to live in.

    A few years later we were in Fez, Morocco, on holiday. Amid the wonderful throng of Fassi folk in the heart of the old city, came some European tourists, the women in shorts and bare-shouldered, apparently unaware of or immune to the looks they were getting from some of the crowd. (By-the-way in 1 week in Fez we saw one niqab and loads of charming Moroccan women in really snazzy headscarves, but in jeans, long jackets and with their arms covered). In exactly the same way, those European women, so insensitive to and I suppose ignorant of the culture around them, were insulting the host country in which they found themselves.

    Britain is a tolerant country and is sometimes taken advantage of by its residents, in many ways. We now live in France and have not seen one niqab in the polyglot town nearby nor in the great cities of the South where there are millions of muslim residents, more than in Britain. They accept the French way of life and the French constitution to which they have sworn allegiance (barring illegals). France's example can be followed to advantage.

    And don't forget, John Simpson of the BBC walked into Kabul (when the Taliban were driven out) dressed in a niqab. If that tall guy can get away with such a disguise, then who can't!

  • Comment number 16.

    Huaimak (10): History shows that minorities do need protecting from the prejudices of the short-term majority (a.k.a. societal norms that some feel minorities should conform too, but which in private matters like how we dress are no business of the state so long as they cause no real offense). Upholding minority rights against the prejudices of the majority is one of the functions of an independent judiciary. I assume you would not abolish an independent judiciary, and therefore believe it has some function to perform distinct from that of the national legislature which represents the majority? If so, the question becomes whether the ECHR is up to the job of protecting rights, and if not whether another court, like a national Supreme Court, could do that same job better.

    I think the French government has got it very, very wrong with this burka ban. Today is a real day of shame for France marking the start of the use of the criminal law to tell grown women how to dress. One would hope this is precisely the sort of thing that an independent judiciary charged with protecting the rights of small politically unpopular minority would strike down. However I am not optimistic the ECHR will do this as all evidence is that it has very poor quality judges. The ECHR got it wrong on votes for prisoners for example. It is legitimate that those who break the law are denied some of their rights in order to protect the rights of society. Prisoners lose one of their most important right - their liberty to go where they please - because of the high probability they will use it to repeat offend and cause further harm to society. I think it legitimate those who break the law should lose the right to vote to decide those who make the law.

    I wonder though upon what principles the ECHR makes its rulings? I don’t really see much consistency with the Strasbourg court that would indicate they are anything other than ‘politicians in robes’ who use their judicial power to invent new rights and/or decline to protect those of vulnerable minorities according to the personal prejudices of the judges (many of whom at the ECHR had no prior relevent experience). If the burka ban goes to the ECHR, the court itself will be under trial.

  • Comment number 17.

    VinceMilan wrote:
    "How do you known this face-covered person is a woman?
    How do we know this face-covered person is the mother of the 3-year old ?"

    How preposterous, well how do YOU know any given mother is actually the mother of the child she is with? Could be her aunt, grandmother, could even be a crossdresser?

    The point is you're argument is as silly and amateurish as all the others.

    This whole issue is about nothing except about pandering to the rise in long suppressed racist tendencies in certain sections of western society, hence why it is the traditional right wing groups pressing for these laws.

  • Comment number 18.

    it's not only veil-wearing girls, but also boys wearing balaclavas in public places. They suffer from prejudice too.

  • Comment number 19.

    @Commodus:

    You seem to be conflating "religious extremism" with "dress code".

    How on earth does wearing a burqa amount to religious extremism?

    Now, I'm no fan of religion myself, and I think wearing a burqa is deeply silly. However, it is absolutely no business of the state to tell people what to wear. This law is illiberal and pandering to thinly disguised racism.

    Disappointing to see some of that racism make it onto the comments on this blog.

  • Comment number 20.

    Bravo! France has a long history of secularim going back to the revolutionary fight against the oppression imposed by the Catholic Church. Religion is too often an excuse for old men to assert power over the credulous or those who are not in position to argue. We should take a leaf out of France's book and start by getting rid of ALL expressions of religiosity in public life.

  • Comment number 21.

    The problem of social integration of immigrants affects almost every European country, yet the EU & most national governments have tried to ignore it because there is no easy solution.

    Gavin is correct: France has taken this largely symbolic action out of a desperation to highlight this problem again. There are great advantages in having a multicultural society, not least in giving us (the west) a better understanding of the different cultures & religions in the world. But to bow to every minorities’ whim is neither of benefit to us or to them.

    We all need to live together & respect one another’s cultures. But each country should be run to reflect the wishes of the majority ie the indigenous population. That is what makes each country different, and subsequently the world is a more interesting place.

    European countries have made huge concessions to immigrants over the years, and it is about time that they and their religions show some compromise & try to adapt to their new “surroundings” (adopted countries). As an Englishman who has lived in a foreign country for the last 10 years, I would never begin to dictate to my host why I should be treated differently. I respect their laws, their system, their way of life, and if I do not like it, I can choose not to live there.

    So please, no more burkas, no more turbans instead of crash helmets, no more minarets, mosques or synagogues paid with public money. Instead let us all try to adapt to the country where we choose to live.

  • Comment number 22.

    One might suspect this has more to do with 'culture' rather than Islam?

    My daughter is a doctor, of no religion, but a faith in a 'higher being' and works with other female doctors who wear head coverings, yet these doctors never considered wearing the veil in any area of their work or private life. They see the veil as a barrier and a personal restriction to their communication with their patients, and regard it's use as unsubstantiated.

    These highly educated, intelligent professional women regard the veil partly as a Muslim male and also a cultural issue. Ultimately, if a women is living in an Islamic country - she is not obliged to wear the veil - but we never hear about that!

    Ultimately, this whole issue, across Europe and other countries, is being abused and deliberately confused. Women, in non Islamic countries walking around in full burka are missing the point if they only have one train of thought.

    In fact, wouldn't it be great if we all had one uniform - like China used to have. Everyone wore the same thing - no worries over fashion; no worries of what you earned or what you were worth. No dilemma of what to wear at work - what freedom to be free of so-called fashion? No, not a communist - but as wages fall and inflation rises - wouldn't it be great to just wear the same as everyone else and save a fortune in money and stress? Just a random thought.

  • Comment number 23.

    I live in an area of London where many women cover their faces. If it did not affect anyone else then I would defend their right to do so, but it does affect other women in the area. Men seem to think if you are wearing a knee length skirt you are showing too much flesh and deserve to be leered at. I dont see why I should have to cover up to deal with their lack of respect for women and self control.

  • Comment number 24.

    To live in a country - one must live by the laws of that country, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. The woman in this report is "flicking the V's" at the same country which has laws which prevent her from being stoned due to untruths or sold for slavery.
    To say that the ban on full face covering is aimed only at religion is small-minded to say the least. Western countries have made many changes to allow their towns, cities and workplaces to "absorb" people of different (minority) faiths and allow them to practice their faith withouth fear of hatred or assault - specially prepared food is widely available (and more regulated)and NHS staff are given protected time to pray during their religious festivals. No-one is asking these women to change anything about their attire which would cause embarrasment i.e. remove or shorten their robes. The term "Big Brother is watching you" is no longer futuristic and everyday cctv captures your face at least once - you probably dont even realise it - why should anyone be excluded from this when cctv evidence has become the foundation of many a Court case or helped source witnesses to crime. We live in times where unfortunately you really dont know your neighbour and people are suspicious of anyone who appears to be a "little bit different" - removing facial covering (whether it is hoodies, balaclava or veil) makes even ground for identification.
    Also, it would be interesting to survey the ?2,000 women who have been forced to remove their veils to see whether it has made a difference to social inclusion/exclusion. Conversation goes much further than words, facial expression and body language play a key part too - take these away and the situation is unbalanced, leading to barriers before the first word has been spoken.
    France should be applauded for introducing this ban - they have stepped outside the box of "political correctness" to protect their country, despite ruffling a few feathers.

  • Comment number 25.

    No 19. "Thinly disguised racism", this is not. This is about maintaining the host country's values and freedoms. If I lived in Saudi Arabia, I would be expected to do the same as the women there. No one has an objection to religious freedom in this country or in France it seems from the lengths they have gone to in order to prove that point. Wearing a cloth over your face is not a religious requirement but a cultural accoutrement used by men to keep women oppressed. It therefore does not come under heading of religious freedom or indeed freedom to dress the way you like. I could not walk down the street in a balaclava, or naked as someone else so aptly put it. Just like you can't walk into a public building or a bank with a helmet on. And you don't even know me, so I find it utterly offensive that you are calling me a racist because I have posted that I see this French ruling as reasonable in the circumstances.

  • Comment number 26.

    Commodus wrote:
    "And finally, to people who say the state should not say what to wear and what not to wear, I don't think people are allowed naked in town centers anywhere? There is always some rules for society to work properly. It is not acceptable to walk naked in a town center, it is not acceptable to walk will full cover in a town center. Sounds fair to me. People talk about making immigrants feel confortable in their host country. What about them making their hosts feel comfortable by not wearing such garment?"

    The value of this reasoning is laid bare when you consider for a moment that exactly the same wording could be used to justify a dictat from the state ordering every citizen to wear blue overalls with a symbol of the state (perhaps cross hammers would be nice) embroidered on the lapels.

    Both the basis and the fundamental flaw of the argument is found in the sentence which reads:

    "There is (sic) always some rules for society to work properly."

    We are thus forced to decided WHO shall define the word "properly".

    If one defines a proper society as upholding the rule of law and individual freedoms, then it becomes clear that "some rules" is a strictly confined set.

    If, alternatively, the folks defining "properly" do not care for individual freedom or liberty, and if such folks think an all powerful state is proper, then the argument from Commodus holds fair.

    Never make the mistake of thinking that someone who talks about rules and the law is not an extreme fascist.

    Always remember that every single jew butchered in Europe during the final solution was murdered according to the rules.

    There is something disturbing in the continental disease that frustrates a basic understanding of human rights. I see it everyday, amongst german language speakers.

    Somehow the logic of human rights on the continent is based on the idea that if someone class of people in society have human rights, then the society itself has human rights. "Human rights for the right humans" is a reasonable continental policy, and always has been.

    It is a sickness, and my hunch is that it is tied into the long standing tradition of class stratification that goes with the feudal ecclesiastical law that continues to disgrace so much of Europe.

    If your first presumption of reasoning is that some human beings are born superior to others, you will always fail to grasp the concept of human rights.

  • Comment number 27.

    19. At 12:05pm 11th Apr 2011, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:
    "Now, I'm no fan of religion myself, and I think wearing a burqa is deeply silly. However, it is absolutely no business of the state to tell people what to wear. This law is illiberal and pandering to thinly disguised racism.

    Disappointing to see some of that racism make it onto the comments on this blog".

    But nothing like as disappointing as comments like yours who using false allegations of racism to attack the views of posters on these blogs.

  • Comment number 28.

    I was reading a book recently, Diagonal Lengths: Rethinking our world, this had a section on the Hijab which impressed me. One of the points was that we communicate using body language a lot more than we do with speech, and the Hijab stops that, thus it restricts communication and effectively is anti free speech and aims to restrict the set of people the women communicate with. It also made the point that most of the countries practising the hijab come at the bottom of the list of countries for female empowerment and that it was therefore a gender issue masquerading as religion.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think the French are doing the right thing for the wrong reason. This is a security issue. If witnesses can't see the face they can't tell who robbed the bank, was driving the car or had the bomb.

  • Comment number 30.

    This law has been enacted in France and it's entirely up to that country what they do or do not; and if muslims don't like it then they should go elsewhere. It was fairly inevitable that we would have pontificating in this country about what the French have done. We are very good at preaching in the name of tolerance.

  • Comment number 31.

    19. At 12:05pm 11th Apr 2011, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:
    "@Commodus:

    You seem to be conflating "religious extremism" with "dress code".

    How on earth does wearing a burqa amount to religious extremism?

    Now, I'm no fan of religion myself, and I think wearing a burqa is deeply silly. However, it is absolutely no business of the state to tell people what to wear. This law is illiberal and pandering to thinly disguised racism.

    Disappointing to see some of that racism make it onto the comments on this blog."



    Very disappointing to see You attempting to 'conflate' Race with Creed and confusing a Right to a Faith with a Responsibility to Justice.

    Islam is not a 'race' and I've not read any comment so far that contains racism: I have read comments that question the right of females from 1 Faith to wear a particular form of face-cover that precludes others from French society from identifying or engaging with them in the customary manner of that society (i.e. face-to-face).
    I've also read that this is a Law duly passed by France's Democratic procedures: Those followers of Islam who write/proclaim they will not accept/break this Law are contravening the Democratically arrived at Justice system of France and are surely subject to that Judicial system irrespective of any tenets they hold based around Faith.

    Personally, I would be loathe to see any such Law made in the UK and agree the State should where possible stay out of such matters: All that said, I am quite clear France's Law-makers have legitimately assumed that role with a specific purpose and insofar as France has this tradition of total secularism within its culture I can see nothing against France enforcing such a dress-code.

  • Comment number 32.

    Covering of the face is offensive to western culture, period. ie: Wearing a motorbike helmet and not bothering to take it off when you go in to a shop if offensive and many shops have a rule forcing riders to remove helmets before entering and rightly so.

    It should not be much to ask to expect immigrants to have respect for the values that society upholds. Nobody forces them to live in France if it is so difficult for them to obey the rules and respect the people then they should go to a country they feel welcome ie: Saudi Arabia.

    Having said that it is a paradox that these incredibly rude ungrateful people have been forced to remove their burkas. Because the Burka stands for repression and the west stands for freedom so for the west to make a law that inhibits freedom in order to preserve freedom is somwhat ironic.

    Personally i would not make this law, i would make a law that says you are within your legal rights to shout at and otherwise berate and abuse those in society that offend your culture.

    SO they can wear a burka legally and people that find it offensive can shout at them in the street for doing so and people can refuse to serve them in shops etc unless they remove the burka.

    This way everyone retains there freedom. Arabs have the freedom to offend french people and french people retain the freedom to be offended and make their feelings known.

  • Comment number 33.

    "19. At 12:05pm 11th Apr 2011, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:
    @Commodus:

    You seem to be conflating "religious extremism" with "dress code".

    How on earth does wearing a burqa amount to religious extremism?"

    The Burka is an extremists statement. It is essentially sticking your fingers up at a country that was gratious enough to give you citizenship. It is akin to me wandering around mecca wearing a borat thong and a sign that says 'there is no god'.

    It is a deliberate insult which is extremism.

  • Comment number 34.

    Dear DisgustedOfMitcham2 (what happened to 1?)

    You miss the point. There should not be any need to have a law banning the burka, in the same way that Tesco should not have found it necessary to inform people that wearing your pyjamas when shopping in their stores is not acceptable. There is an accepted, yet unwritten dress code in western society, which for centuries has been upheld by people using their common sense. Sadly the deterioration of our education system, combined with our pandering to the Human Rights Act, has eroded all common sense, thus forcing governments to bring in these unfortunately ridiculous laws.

    The banning of the burka in France is no more than a cry for help from the majority of its inhabitants.

  • Comment number 35.

    I live in France in a highly cosmopolitan city. You almost never see a niqab in the street. However, I agree (for once) with the government and its decision to bring in this law, even though it will be difficult to implement in practical terms.

    Visual communication is part of our culture; walking around with a paper bag over your head is not. As I think it has been established already, the niqab is a garment worn according to cultural and not religious precepts. Go to Saudi Arabia and you won't see women driving cars (unless it has changed). Go to Thailand and you won't be allowed in the Wat Po in shorts and tee-shirt. By the way, I also believe that walking around Fez with your flesh hanging out everywhere is out of order too.

    In response to mudddy, a kindergarten teacher interviewed on the television here expressed her reticence at handing over a child to somebody she couldn't identify. Would you hand over a child you had in your care to somebody in a ski mask? Don't forget we have id cards over here and the teacher would be in her right to ask for yours.

    I don't know what Freeborn John's personal grudge is against the ECHR is, but I can tell him that most of the people of North African descent I know in this city (my relatives, friends and neighbours) are totally against people hiding their faces - whether it's with a niqab, burka or balaclava. No-one's saying there's no racism in this country or that people of African (North and West) origins aren't discriminated against in some situations, but this is hardly a "day of shame".

    My only reservation is that this law was introduced by a government that increasingly is encroaching on the National Front's territory. A little slip of the tongue here, a little double-entendre there... However, with any luck their days are numbered.

  • Comment number 36.

    #19. At 12:05pm 11th Apr 2011, DisgustedOfMitcham2,

    I presume you are also in favour of being able to wear ski masks, balaclava's and white pointed hoods such as are used by the KKK amongst others, after all if a burqa or niqab is ok in your opinion then so must all full face coverings. To make an exception because of religion, which is the belief in a immaginary being(s), is in reality the racism you claimed but you got it the wrong way round. Positive discrimination, as in allowing burqa's, is overt racism.

  • Comment number 37.

    Those who claim such a ban is wrong are sadly guilty of a lack of real world experience.
    To those who go further and claim it is racist, try this: Is it not equally racist to dis-respect the norms of the society you choose to inhabit, by doing so you are setting yourself apart, inviting mis-understanding from the less thoughtful in that society and making a statement to all others that you consider their norms as beneath you.
    The stated reasons for the wearing of this ridiculous garb are weak; they are akin to skirts being required to reach the ankle in Western society one hundred years ago. As the West has evolved so eventually will the Islamic world, hopefully there will come a point in time when humans have evolved to the point when all religon is seen and laughed at for the absud, power maintaining lie that it is.

  • Comment number 38.

    Viva La France....Try the same in the UK and fear the consequence is what they say incase UK tries the same...

  • Comment number 39.

    In Australia, the booklet supplied to new immigration applicants states (roughly) that Australia is a country founded on Westernised Christian philosophies and customs. It says you must be prepared to accept those customs or think very carefully about whether you want to live here. I find this idea perfectly acceptable and choose to live in Australia.

  • Comment number 40.

    To: Commodus, Freeborn, Huaimek etc.

    Re, The EUropean Court of Human Rights

    I cannot see how any society can be deemed 'Democratic' if a bunch of Unelected Judges are empowered with the supreme authority to strike-out/cancel a Law placed on the Statute book by recognised Democratic procedures of those Elected to make Law.

    This is one of my principle objections to the EU's ECJ and to the entirely separate body, the ECHR: Both have the authority to negate the freely expressed opinions of Citizen Electorate at the Ballot box who cast their Votes in Democratic Election of Government for a particular Party & the Policies it has put in its Manifesto.

    The most obvious UK example is of course the ECHR Judgement that convicted criminals serving a prison sentence should have the Right to Vote.
    This ECHR Judgement completely flies in the face of the expressed will of the huge Majority of British Electorate who knew whichever mainstream Party they Voted for that Party was against Prisoner Voting Rights.

    There can be no genuine Democracy for so long as the multi-millions of Citizens' Votes can be completely dismissed by a dozen or so Unrepresentative, Unaccountable, Unapproachable Legal-minds whose interest in a 'Just' society does not extend to accepting the Democratic Will-of-the-Citizens.

    That the ECHR senior 'Justice' had the colossal temerity and impertinence to comment that the UK would be "..on a par with Greece's Junta generals' if it refused the Prisoner Voting Right illustrates the profound degree to which these sorts of Academics are wholly divorced from day-to-day reality. The street-level ignorance of a so-called 'Man-of-Jurisprudence' to allege Prisoners not Voting in the UK is akin to the imprisonment without trial, torture & slaughter of many valiant Greek Citizens leaves one incredulous that such high-minded, principled individuals can so openly miss-the-point of Justice in a Democracy!

    IMO by exactly the same measure if some of France's Muslim community will not accept the Will of the Majority then they are in breach of the Law and should face the Justice of that society with no cop-out appeal to a supra-National supreme Judiciary that does not recognise the Right & Responsibility of France's Elected Government to make Law.

  • Comment number 41.

    I do not think it is necessary, accurate or useful to characterize the popular expression of hate as "racism". Clearly religions such as Islam are open to all races.

    Equally clearly, french fascism is a broad church, and those who seeks votes from haters will take such votes from any racial group.

    What we are seeing here is simply the very ancient art of hate politics, and like all hate politics the basis is fear mongering.

    People who go in for public displays of hate politics.... here i mean those who react to it with emotive expressions of support, such as on this blog.... are simply hating and fearing. they are not reasoning.

    That is rather the whole point and appeal of hate politics.

    If you wanted reasonable people to debate reasonable points of practical order, you wouldn't aspire to generating hate politics in the first place.

    So there are only two matters of importance in this debate.

    The first is WHO is instigating and perpetrating the hate. We already know why. To get public support, obviously. But exactly WHO is important, because within every party system you have hawks, doves, and outright homicidal lunatics. It is important to know who the homicidal lunatics are, so a careful watch can be put on them. That is a core duty of the media, and crucial for the ethics of journalists.

    the second issue of importance is for each individual to judge themselves, and to ask themselves whether they are expressing hate and fear, or whether they have a reasonable position about an issue that actually affects their lives.

    A good test here is to decide whether the things you write and say about the issue would be suitable for a kindergarten audience.

    If you could stand in front of a group of four year olds and their teachers, and say the things you are saying, and feel like you are a decent human being whilst saying these things, then you probably have a reasonable position on a practical issue.

    When one considers the degradation of so many personalities as the inevitable cost of hate politics, it is easy to understand why those who practice the art are widely considered to be the very lowest possible form of human life.

    When one considers the horrors that have followed hate politics across the world, over so many centuries, and the suffering so caused by these advocates of fear and loathing, there arises a strong presumption that the public advocates of hate are a manifestation of pure evil.

    So I want to know who, exactly, drafted this law. I want to know who, exactly, voted for it in the french house.

    Let us have some names and faces, and let the sunlight cleanse this most rotten and putrid gathering of political minds.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ #26
    It seems that it is you who has the issue with "rules."
    The post you are making reference to merely uses the terms rules and acceptable to indicate those behaviors that are found to be the norms in that society.
    It is notable that you do not have any solution to the very real problems faced by Western democracies when attempting to integrate persons from other societies.
    Letting everybody do what they want, which seems to be the closest to a plan that you have, would result in various levels of quite nasty abuse, murders, and general criminal activity. As this isn't likely to be an acceptable result for any society it makes your opinion look rather silly.

  • Comment number 43.

    I completely agree with the action taken by the French government. Being respectful towards a countries traditions and heritage should be a given. Wearing a veil over your face is not the western way and I believe this should be respected by those living in, being supported by and enjoying the freedoms of western countries. In the same way, those living in or visiting muslim countries should be respectful of their culture (with regards to clothing, alcohol etc).

    English culture is constantly being eroded for fear of being branded ractist, I only hope the British government follow the French example and understand the stark difference between respect for culture and racism.

  • Comment number 44.

    @elsieb66 (#25)

    It sounds like you are holding up Saudi Arabia as a model of the sort of society you think we should all live in. Sorry, but I disagree. I think Saudi Arabia is a deeply illiberal and dreadful place, and I find the argument "they do it in Saudi Arabia, so we should do it here" spectacularly unconvincing.

    I'm also amused that you think I'm specifically calling you a racist. What makes you think I was referring to your post? Especially since you hadn't posted it until after I posted mine.

    But to you and all the others who seem to be offended by my suggesting that support for this ban is motivated by racism, I suggest you take a long hard look at what your real motivation is for supporting the ban. Are you even aware of what it is?

  • Comment number 45.

    Perhaps this debate might be improved if those who say the ban is OK in law would state the test which allows a legal practitioner to know whether a particular item of women's fashion is legal or not.

    You can quote the legislation, if you like, as part of your test.

    This might sound like a trite point, but it is not so.

    For the next few years, every local lawyer in every french town will be having this conversation over, and over, and over again.

    In effect, local lawyers will be preaching the meaning of this law as the mantra of the state, not because they want to preach but rather because people will ask them to recite it, such that they may understand "the rules" (cue german cheering in the background at the occurrence of that word).

    So this is one of those inevitable things that happen after laws like this are created. They get interpreted.

    And how will this be interpreted?

    Well, local lawyers are going to say what they think. What will they think?

    They wont want to look like idiots in their local area. They will just say it like it is, and be done with it.

    So all over france, for as long as this law remains, you will have this dialogue occurring over and over again. And that dialogue is going to be folks asking lawyers what this law means, and lawyers telling folks that it mean being a normally dressed muslim woman is now illegal in france, and that the state is trying to tax and demonize muslims.

    That isn't debatable, in terms of whether or not it will happen. It is already happening. And no one can stop it. it is part of the fabric and flow of the law, it is beyond the control of political parties, or even emperors.

    So how do you all think that is going to pan out, in time?

    What are the fruits of that particular tree, do you think?

  • Comment number 46.

    @Buzet23 (#36)

    Well, which do you presume? Do you presume that I'm in favour of people being allowed to wear balaclavas, or do you presume I'm arguing for exceptions on religious grounds?

    If you think it through, you'll see that you can't really presume both of those things at the same time.

  • Comment number 47.

    "What the French authorities want to avoid, at all costs, is a confrontation which could turn a debate about the covering of faces into whether the Muslim community is being singled out for special treatment."
    Are Jews still allowed to wear the skull cap?
    Are French Christians still allowed to where religious symbols (e.g. crucifix)?
    In my book, it's ALL religious symbols and manner of dress gone, or its discrimination.

  • Comment number 48.

    The ban is just an attack on religious views. It doesnt matter how you interpret Islam but the ban shows a lack of respect for people and their religious faith.

    there are worse things happening in this world than women covering their faces out of the choice to follow their religion.

    There is a lack of educated study into Islam within the morons that passed the law.

  • Comment number 49.

    I have a deep migiving and fear of any form of religious fundamentalism. We have seen amny instances of abuse throughout history: religious wars (and there have been many), persecutions, racisms, etc. Such fundamentalism is a power play on the many by the few. The use of the BURKA cannot be related to the use of other head-covering devices, as it is an imposition of fundamental muslim law, deeply enshrined throughout the ages since Islam was founded. It can only be seen in truth as a show of fundamentalist islam and as such must be abhorred. It is correct that a pluralist society should outlaw its use.

  • Comment number 50.

    @41 Clearly you have an agenda here that has little if nothing to do with the subject in question.
    Your "points" on hate and fear can easily be turned around to ask whether those who wear garments that are outside the norms of the society they inhabit consider the effect they have on the majority. I offer the punk movement for your consideration.

  • Comment number 51.

    Apolloman: I was reading a book recently, Diagonal Lengths, et cetera.
    It could well be that people who actually read books (not one Book, but books) make more intelligent comments than people who don't.
    Apolloman got it right, in my opinion

  • Comment number 52.

    @47 The Burka isn't a religious symbol. It's an enforced cultural dress from a society that treats women as 2nd class citizens. It's less like a Jewish skullcap and more like the armband Jews were forces to wear in Nazi controlled Germany.

    What if today Jews were forced to wear those? Would it make it acceptable today if a handful of Jews said they liked wearing them?

    As an Atheist I'm not a fan of religious symbols myself (you shouldn't really need to advertise) but see no problem with someone expressing their faith if it does no harm.

    The suppressive culture in Islamic states which is against equal rights for women does do harm and is something we should reject in the west. Back in 2006 there was outrage in Australia over a Muslim cleric blaming women for being raped because 'they put themselves on display' and also that 'If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred,'
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6086374.stm

  • Comment number 53.

    Is it illegal to wear a burka or niqab under a full face motor-cycle helmet? Health & Safety vs. secularism. ‘tis a war of apathetic proportions.

  • Comment number 54.

    In wandering Arab countries, I wear a hijab because I feel more comfortable blending in. Round here, it only comes out when visiting a mosque or interacting with people for whom that sort of thing is important (parents of students, for example).

    Do those ladies who desire to wear a niqab or burka feel comfortable wearing one when it's not what everyone else is wearing? Or do they do it to make a statement?

  • Comment number 55.

    There is no excuse for covering your face in public - whatever your religion, or culture or gender - in a European country.

    Nuns and monks dress modestly, but do not hide behind veils in any part of the world. Why should unsubstantiated face veils be allowed under the guise of of cultural ignorance that has nothing to do with the Koran or Islam.

    This whole issue of the veil is deeply divisive and demands isolation rather than contributes to social cohesion. Perhaps that's the point of ancient and unsubstantiated distance from infidels. Perhaps all women, globally, should dress this way - and men too? Ooops, men can wear what they want!!!!

    Perhaps, Hilary Clinton should wear the veil - perhaps all Jewish women globally should wear wigs to cover their real hair?

    This issue is all about women isn't it? Men wear what they want - yet narrow minded minded men indoctrinate what women should wear.

    What's wrong with bright, intelligent female children and women the world over - they are still suppressed by insecure male idiots with too much power that suits their pathetic egos?

  • Comment number 56.

    @ #44
    You clearly failed to understand the point of post #25. At no point did post #25 suggest Saudi was a model that should be followed. The fact that you have clear comprehension issues (or maybe a blinkered viewpoint?) rather invalidates your opinion.
    ps i'm not racist at all, and i fully support the ban. your in smoke and pipe it that stick.
    Perhaps you should re-examine your definition of racist...

    @45 Essentially you are saying that nothing should ever be done because something else may happen. Tell me, do you ever leave your darkened room?

  • Comment number 57.

    @34 Spot on.

  • Comment number 58.

    @52 "Sensibly" Reckless

    All you've managed to do there was advertise that you know absolutely nothing about what the Religion is about.

    Perhaps some reading will do you some good as to realise the extent to which Women were given rights in Islam years before the West even recognised women in society

  • Comment number 59.

    I wonder what would happen if a couple of hundred bruisers went wandering about in balaclavas, minding their own business, near a parliament building or a religious institution?

  • Comment number 60.

    Unfortunately President Sarkozy knows that this is just a pre-election PR stunt. The European Court of Human Rights will strike this law out in a heartbeat.

    Whether you disagree with the law or not, it's largely irrelevant. Freedom to worship is right under European Law and that right will be upheld by the ECHR. The garments themselves are religion based, although interpretation allows for varying degrees of "modesty" to be applied. Unless it is permissable for all religious symbols go (crucifixes, skull caps, etc) then this law will be overturned.

    I remember the headlines about religious intolerance when British Airways asked a member of cabin crew to remove her crucifix. Seems that it's ok as long as Islam is on the receiving end.

    Personally, I would like to see these go, but it's neither my place nor that of the state to make that a reality. It's down to the wearers themselves, although any choice they make should be supported by the state.

    Those that associate religion and extremism (particularly with Islam) are making a leap of faith too far. Whilst extremism is often inspired by interpretations of religious texts; religion itself is not the problem.

  • Comment number 61.

    In a democracy, and we all know that there is no such thing, we would allow anyone to wear what they want, and thus to allow women to cover their faces. The corollary to that is that if these people wish to isolate and alienate themselves, they should bear the consequences of their actions, and that means that the rest of us should be free to shun them, to refuse to allow them access to our shops, consulting rooms, public transport, and so on, up to and including ridiculing them.

    Can we do that? Of course not, becuase democracy only ever works in one direction.

  • Comment number 62.

    @55 "Ooops, men can wear what they want!!!!"

    FYI, there are guidelines in Islam that speak of dress codes for BOTH men and women.
    You can do some reading of your own before pointing fingers at "insecure males". Take a trip down to the East side of London and ask the women in Universities who wear a veil whether they believe that these are rules set by men for them or not.

  • Comment number 63.

    The only person trying to hide something behind the burqa is Sarkozy; and no matter how many times he tries to hide his poor record as French president behind Roma repatriations and burqa bans, he's not going to succeed.

    It is very disappointing to see the leader of a major European nation using this kind of shameful bigotry to try to regain popular support.

  • Comment number 64.

    A fine for breaking this contraversial law may seem a little excessive to some, although it's considerably more humane than a public beating, being stoned to death by a baying mob or an 'honour' killing; matters in which women in some countries appear to have very little say indeed.

  • Comment number 65.

    I don't think the French have gone far enough yet: and the UK hasn't even started. I won't be happy until faith schools are banned, there is no protection for any religion under law, no special societal position for the heads of the various faiths, and the wearing of religious artefacts should be personal and hidden.

  • Comment number 66.

    # 32. bigsammyb

    I agree. Better the people themselves argue frankly with those migrants and are not regarded to be hostile against foreigners generally because of this than making such a law, a law at all, about such an issue.

  • Comment number 67.

    44. At 13:37pm 11th Apr 2011, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:
    in reply to @elsieb66 (#25)

    "But to you and all the others who seem to be offended by my suggesting that support for this ban is motivated by racism, I suggest you take a long hard look at what your real motivation is for supporting the ban. Are you even aware of what it is?"

    There you go again, falsely accusing other of racism which is a disgusting slur designed to bully and to stifle debate in a free society.

    Your silence about the motivation of those who choose to wear the full face veil speaks volumes. Why don't YOU take a long hard look at their motivation and why they choose to wear a full face veil when they know that it is deeply offensive to our culture, our values, our way of life and puts an insurmountable barrier between them and the rest of society? If there is any "racism" here, then surely it is being shown by those who choose to wear the full face veil?

  • Comment number 68.

    At last common sense prevails! France again is leading all Europe in social advances.

  • Comment number 69.

    @Mudddy: How preposterous, well how do YOU know any given mother is actually the mother of the child she is with? (...)This whole issue is about nothing except about pandering to the rise in long suppressed racist tendencies in certain sections of western society, hence why it is the traditional right wing groups pressing for these laws.

    Your nice comment show how tolerant you are. All this is a security issue. I want to know who I am talking to, who I am walking by. I want to see the face to recognize the person and the intention. It is not racism. We are social animals. We read faces all the time.

    I don't forget that too many muslims still, in 2011, take their religion seriously to the point of killing and even dying.

  • Comment number 70.

    I agree that integration into the community where you 'choose' to live is essential. I lived in Brunei, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia for quite some years. I had to respect local laws, such as not eating/drinking in public during Ramadan and wearing appropriate clothing in public......so, I would hope that the laws of the sovereign state be upheld, and the niqab (at least in Europe) will not be tolerated. It is a symbol of the subjugation of women, and a symbol of a male dominated defunct world that should now be obsolete.

  • Comment number 71.

    There is a culture clash here: In the West we are 'taught' from an early age that (unless it is freezing weather) only 'bad people' - robbers, muggers and the like cover their mouths. Cover your mouth with your hand: you are shocked, or lying. Covering your eyes: sunglasses, super-hero masks seems to be acceptable.

    So, despite assurances from their wearers - burkas make us feel uncomfortable.

    p.s. I guess Spiderman is an exception!

  • Comment number 72.

    @67
    I'm interested to know how exactly it is offensive to your culture (whatever culture that is) that someone is covering their face. Perhaps people of this culture should be respectful to other religions. What is so majorly an obstacle that people that follow a faith cannot coincide with another culture?

    "why do they wear the full face veil?" has it occured that perhaps it is because they choose to interpret and practise what their religion says.

    I dont understand how your life looks like it is being completely shattered by what someone else is wearing.

  • Comment number 73.

    democracythreat - in post 41 you repeatedly wield the word "hate" like a weapon, in the hope that it will silence those whose position differs from yours. You lament the unavailability of an even more powerful weapon - the word "racism" - because you know that your interlocutors here would see through it.

    I do not support this law, but see it as a misguided, feeble attempt by a culture to assert itself in an environment where the indigenous cultures of Europe are portrayed as at best sinister, antiquated and ripe for abolition, and at worst non-existent blank slates simply waiting to be filled by other, "real" cultures from further afield. These memes have been prevalent for several decades now and it is inevitable that they will be rejected.

    The French are less cowed than most of their neighbours when it comes to asserting their culture. This may grate against us (and the Germans, etc) for various reasons of historical rivalry, but in the greater scheme of things it is a precedent that the whole of Europe would do well, and is likely, to follow. It will ensure stable, self-confident cultures that both offer a positive model to which newcomers may assimilate, and apply reasonable pressure to encourage that assimilation. If this dissuades certain potential immigrants, then both the country in question and the dissuaded immigrants will be better off in the long run, as the uneasy cultural compromises that are currently endured will no longer be necessary. Those who do immigrate will do so with the intention of becoming full members of society so that eventually (sooner rather than later) they and their descendants will be indistinguishable from the mainstream. Incomers will self-select and necessarily be more compatible with the destination culture. By absolutely any standard, this has to be a desirable outcome. It will reduce friction and "hate", and therefore remove from society the dark forces that you critique in your post.

    The only ones still maintaining, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that multiculturalism offers any kind of long-term stability, are those with ethnic axes to grind against the societies that they wish to see multiculturalised (always against the wishes of the majority of the population).

    So in short, this policy is a mistake, and no doubt supported by many people for the wrong reasons, i.e. simple religious animus; but it will hopefully be superseded by better thought out policies which restore the right balance to European society.

  • Comment number 74.

    @69 VinceMilan

    to a point I see what you're saying. However, it is not paramount that you be able to do everything you want.
    In terms of recognising peoples intentions and who you're walking by, well there are far more important transactions being carried out without the need to see who we are interacting with.

    Accounts have been opened and closed over internet, telephone and other communication media which we have all used without the need to see who or what we are interacting with because personally we dont care as long we're getting our work done.

    It is up to you whether you want to speak to someone wearing a veil or not but it is their right whether they choose to wear it and not necessarily yours.

  • Comment number 75.

    I support the ban ; should also be banned in the UK .

  • Comment number 76.

    @busby2 (#67)

    You say that wearing a burqa is "deeply offensive to our culture", but why do you think you are the arbiter of what's offensive to our culture? I don't find it offensive. I find it silly, but not offensive. Why do you feel so offended by it?

    Yes, people who wear burqas are choosing to mark themselves out as different. So are Goths (or if we go back a few years, punk rockers). Would you ban those things as well? Or do you only want to ban things that you personally find offensive?

    Which, of course, as we've established, has nothing to do with the race of of the person adopting the form of dress that offends you.

  • Comment number 77.

    #51 diving6
    "Apolloman: I was reading a book recently, Diagonal Lengths, et cetera.
    It could well be that people who actually read books (not one Book, but books) make more intelligent comments than people who don't.
    Apolloman got it right, in my opinion"

    I think that to be rather a general assumption . There are some people who post here only have thoughts and opinions that come out of books . That too depends on what books you read . Many of the posts here written by people who have gleaned their information from reading books newspapers , or political propaganda are very inacurate . In my view the best posts are written by people who experience the subject and whose thoughts expressed are completely their own . I suspect many of the best contributors here read many books .
    I live in Thailand where the national average is one book a year . Nobody much writes books here ; television programmes are on the level of "Just Seventeen" magazine and every soap nearly the same . I believe one can judge the intelect of a nation by what they watch on TV . Thailand might be forgiven , but what about the USA .


  • Comment number 78.

    Well done France ! let's hope Britain can learn from the French. This is not a being racist act but should be seen as a positive action at integration between the East and the West. When you see successfull pro Western Muslim woman, isn't that a joy to know they are embracing the freedom and equaility of the west. Then try and balance that with the sharp contrast of a fully covered figure in your shopping Mall. That tells me dont look at me dont talk to me because we are different leave us alone ! you get on with your life and I will get on with mine.

  • Comment number 79.

    I think the chickens have come home to roost for (some) French muslims. If they insist on wearing the veil then it shows that they have made no effort to integrate or, indeed, feel no need to integrate into European society.

    Instead of always thinking of themselves as victims, perhaps they might want to think, well, how can we adapt to fit in with western European culture and values.

    The veil in all its forms is absolutely at odds with western culture. It has no place here and any muslims who insist on wearing it should seek a country where it is welcome.

    One thing I have always wondered about is, why do we have so many Jewish people who consider emigrating to Israel, but yet almost zero muslims planning to emigrate to Saudi Arabia...

  • Comment number 80.

    @72 If you do not know the answer to that question or refuse to accept it then your knowledge or reason is very questionable.
    A large percentage of communication is non verbal, thus the wearing of facial coverings reduces the ability to communicate effectively.
    This in turn reduces the ability of the person so covered to participate fully in the society they choose to inhabit.
    In the West they are de-facto rejecting the society they choose to make their life in. Think about that for a while.
    All religion is a poor excuse for a lack of independant thought. Dressing up to represent ones religion is sad. Rio carnival costumes are far more fun.


  • Comment number 81.

    41. At 13:28pm 11th Apr 2011, democracythreat wrote:


    "If you could stand in front of a group of four year olds and their teachers, and say the things you are saying, and feel like you are a decent human being whilst saying these things, then you probably have a reasonable position on a practical issue...."


    Whilst agreeing with much of Your view on the 'hate politics' the above is far too simplistic a test.
    Afterall, it is in some Mosques of Britain, Europe and elsewhere that a few radical Immans are pronouncing before all-male congregations from age 2 to 102 that Sharia Law and the Word of Allah and his servant the Prophet Mouhammad supercedes any Law of the Democratically Elected Government.

    Of course we might all aspire to be good, honest and true infront of 4 year olds and indeed everyone else, but with that in mind determining when an Individual's mind should be entrusted with the knowledge Santa maybe a myth and so might Allah, Jesus, Bhudda etc. is surely not something we can entrust to those who believe in the One True Faith/Almighty (whichever it is)?


    45. At 13:40pm 11th Apr 2011, democracythreat wrote:

    "Perhaps this debate might be improved if those who say the ban is OK in law would state the test which allows a legal practitioner to know whether a particular item of women's fashion is legal or not..."


    Unsure how anyone is supposed to make that clear other than pointing to similarities with all other Law - - a Democratically Elected Government after due deliberation made & passed the legislation - - much as the ban on Crash helmets in most official offices or the compulsory use of Seat-Belts... surely both indicative of a Cultural practising of Law & Order for the greater benefit of the wider society?

    That said, IMO it is to Britain's credit no such incursion of basic freedom of the Individual is likely to ever be passed by Parliament.

  • Comment number 82.

    @29 sges

    "I think the French are doing the right thing for the wrong reason. This is a security issue. If witnesses can't see the face they can't tell who robbed the bank, was driving the car or had the bomb. "

    Of course when someone is intending to rob a bank the fact they might get fined for covering their face is going to stop them!! You'd assume they'd be more worried about the long prison sentence if they caught for robbing the bank after being identified!!



  • Comment number 83.

    This is a silly law and will be struck down on appeal to higher courts. Sarkozy is an intelligent man and knows this will happen. In the meantime in the run up to the next Presidential election he will show himself as a 'strong man' and take votes from the far right party.
    Chances are with delays such appeals will not be decided until after the next election, in the meantime he is re-elected. This is nothing other than a cynical political move by Sarkozy

  • Comment number 84.

    #79 "One thing I have always wondered about is, why do we have so many Jewish people who consider emigrating to Israel, but yet almost zero muslims planning to emigrate to Saudi Arabia..."

    An excellent question, one that those extolling the virtues of a repressive culture will no doubt have an excellent answer for...or not.

  • Comment number 85.

    72. At 15:26pm 11th Apr 2011, Invincible_Iceman wrote:
    @67

    "What is so majorly an obstacle that people that follow a faith cannot coincide with another culture?"

    The fact that their holy books are predicated on the concept of a universal, unchanging, objective morality which by definition has no basis in the desires or needs of the humans who are supposed to follow it, whereas the societies we are talking about are democracies (to a greater or lesser extent) which derive the rules of governance from the people.

    Two different, mutually exclusive forms of governance. Anyone with a jot of sense, or a basic understanding of religion could see the problem with having two fundamentally different concepts co-existing.


  • Comment number 86.

    The for and against arguments outlined by Gavin Hewitt are those that one is likely to hear in an civilized debate between French intellectuals. The truth is that these arguments are only relevant to the wider public insofar as they serve as cover for bigots on both sides of the burqa divide as the Sarkozy government cynically takes advantage of anti-immigrant feeling in an attempt to win back voters from a resurgent Front National.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    @23: Sympathies!

    Harassment of women is precisely at the root of this issue. In Egypt, once a modernizing country, such coverings were almost unknown two generations ago, and women walked about unharrassed in most public spaces. Since its importation by extremists from Saudi Arabia, veiling has been used as a means to constrain independent women and enforce male authority over them. Muslim and other men who make excuses for their outrageous harassment of women should be held to account for it. What a woman wears has nothing to do with abuse. The only person responsible when a man is abusive, is the man himself.

    Rather than bolstering the rights of Muslim women, the net effect of the veil––in actual practice not in some politically abstract theory––is to strip ALL women of the implied protection of society. The veil marginalizes. The veil alienates. And the veil advances the presumption that a woman, Muslim or not, who does not comply with the most restrictive fashions imaginable is somehow less worthy, less moral, less decent, and yes, less worthy of the equal respect which should be accorded to every human being.

    Actual practice shows that once a society starts down this road, no woman is ever deemed "moral" enough. In Saudi Arabia, some preachers would now enforce a covering that permits only a single eyehole! Imagine the physical risk to these blindered women let alone the damage to their vision. Yet, even these severely repressed women can be harassed and beaten with sticks by "religious" police for even a momentary slip of a sleeve or hem? A woman in a mini-skirt is no threat to anyone's freedom. A man raising his stick to beat a woman into submission to his own twisted religious notions is the absolute antithesis of freedom. Where catcalls and gropings by groups of idlers take the place of the religious bigot's stick, only the weapons have changed.

    Every society weighs the needs of the many against the needs of the few. Banning the veil imposes a small enough sacrifice on a few compared to the much greater freedom that it is meant to safeguard for all.

  • Comment number 89.

    #s 79 and 84: Saudi Arabia does not generally encourage permanent immigration - certainly not of non-Muslims, but equally not of non-Saudi Muslims either. Of course, very large numbers of Muslims do make pilgrimages to the holy sites of Islam in Saudi Arabia, some on a regular basis. But they can hardly be blamed for not wanting to live there.

    Israel is generally a good country to live in if one is a Jew, but for non-Jews... well, not so much. The repressiveness of Saudi Arabia's government is matched and exceeded by Israel's treatment of non-Jewish residents of Gaza and the West Bank, and the heat is increasingly being turned up on non-Jews within the pre-1967 borders as well, albeit less (overtly) by the government and more by the private sector, if you will.

    None of this really relevant to the matter at hand, though - European countries should design domestic policies that are in their own best interests, and not need to use affairs in distant lands as models either to emulate or avoid.

  • Comment number 90.


    #79 "One thing I have always wondered about is, why do we have so many Jewish people who consider emigrating to Israel, but yet almost zero muslims planning to emigrate to Saudi Arabia..."

    How do you manage to compare a population of 13 million worldwide compared to 1.3bn is beyond me.
    Also perhaps you may like to consider that Muslims are spread worldwide from countries in far east to Africa which are not as developed and nor have Sugar daddies that Israel boast such as the US. but thats a different can of worms.

    @80 "dressing in ones religion is sad".
    poor argument. its not really your right to say what is sad or not when it comes to a faith to which you do not associate yourself. If you wish to not interact with someone that wears a face veil then that is your personal issue which you must address onto your lifestyle rather than expect another to.

  • Comment number 91.

    When I pay for my fuel at a service station I have to remove my Motorcycle helmet - in fact I have to remove it befor lifting the nozzle to fill the tank.
    It's a simple security and ID requirment.
    I think most people would recognise that Nuns should still be able to wear Habits, Its not religious garments per se that are the problem, Its the total obscuring of facial features that is the issue.

  • Comment number 92.

    @85
    "The fact that their holy books are predicated on the concept of a universal, unchanging, objective morality which by definition has no basis in the desires or needs of the humans who are supposed to follow it"

    I dont agree as thats an assumption based on absolutely no reading as to what the doctrine of Islam has stated.

    there is laziness among many that just choose to read out of context what certain sections of the media portrays Islam to be rather than do some useful work of their own before passing an opinion.

    It is more than possible for anyone to practise Islam and integrate themselves in various cultures worldwide. I wont hold your hand through it but I just dont think its fair for you or anyone here to make a comment as such without foundation.

  • Comment number 93.

    I would suggest that people that are effectively disguised, including the burka, not be served in stores and public places. I certainly wouldn't serve or work with someone I couldn't identify.

  • Comment number 94.

    I'm glad France has become pro-active in the on growing fight against terrorism. I know that officially on the books it's to prevent women from being exploited but we all know what it's really for. I appreciate that they want to protect their citizens given the growing number of immigrants, whether legal or illegal compared to what my government does in the U.S. Our borders are so open I'm surprised we don't have more attacks that the minuscule ones that are printed in the paper. If the women want to find somewhere in which to freely explore their culture, they still have their native home.

  • Comment number 95.

    When you walk into a bank you must not have your face covered, why does this law not apply to muslims? Why can muslims burn bibles when they feel like it but woe betide anyone who burns a Koran?

    Why is there this blatant desire to let muslims please themselves while everyone else must obey?

    Nobody needs to cover their faces in public. I support the French decision 100% and I couldn't care less about Sarkozys reasons for doing it, the point is it has been done and the UK/rest of the world needs to follow.

  • Comment number 96.

    Hi,
    I personally respect the individual's freedom of choice so there should not be any issue in wearing veil or headscarf/hijab. However if one has to choose between public safety and veil, then I am afraid safety first. Sorry to say but under certain degree, radical Muslims are to blame for this ban, as they have used veil in there undercover operations such as suicide bombings.

    Yogi

  • Comment number 97.

    A number of people have commented about the expectations in Western societies that normal interactions require that someones facial and body language is an integral part of communication. I fully support this argument. Any full-face covering inhibits this part of communication and is not allowed in many cireumstances, even if tolerated in some.

    It does lead me to understand one thing that I have long found difficult to understand: why the courts in many countries regard the evidence of a woman as of less value than that of a man; it is far harder for anyone (judge, jury, whatever) to have as much confidence in the evidence of someone with their face covered than the evidence of someone who is prepared to give their evidence with a readable face.

  • Comment number 98.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but is this not a ban simply on any headgear or garment that covers the face, rather than a ban exclusively on the burqa?

    How then has this turned into a massive debate about Islam and religion? Religion has nothing to do with it - I see this a move of common sense. In Western society, is not acceptable to walk around in public with your face concealed in any circumstances, regardless of what is covering it or why. We have CCTV for a reason and that reason is security.

    And with regards to the ECHR... don't get me started. Like many children, I wasn't allowed to wear long earrings at school. Should I write to the ECHR to complain about that? No, because they were banned for a reason - my own safety.

  • Comment number 99.

    "She also believes that her faith trumps French law, and therein lies her problem in an avowedly secular French Republic."

    Enough said.

    You can worship any god, goddess, plant, animal, bacterial organism you want. But don't go around saying that your faith puts you above the law. No matter what you believe in everyone has to follow the law.

    Using faith as a means to say that you are above the law is just stupid.

  • Comment number 100.

    72. At 15:26pm 11th Apr 2011, Invincible_Iceman wrote:
    “@67
    I'm interested to know how exactly it is offensive to your culture (whatever culture that is) that someone is covering their face. Perhaps people of this culture should be respectful to other religions. What is so majorly an obstacle that people that follow a faith cannot coincide with another culture? “
    ….

    If it isn’t part of your culture when you meet someone face to face to expect to be able to see their face and see their reaction when they smile or frown, then I DO wonder just what culture you belong to!

    You wrote

    "why do they wear the full face veil?" has it occured that perhaps it is because they choose to interpret and practise what their religion says”.
    ….
    It is NOT a requirement of Islam for women to wear a full face veil, so why ask if I had considered that? If it was a requirement, then ALL Muslim women would wear a full face veil.

    The really sad thing is that the likelihood that women are being brain washed or coerced to wear the full face veil hasn’t even occurred to you and that you, and your support for the veil, is part of the problem. And because you cannot see their faces if you asked any of them why they wore the veil, you would be unable to say whether their answers were sincere, would you?








 

Page 1 of 3

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.