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Thu 9 Jul 2009 08:34 AM

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Burqa ban hearings begin in France

French lawmakers opened hearings on whether to ban women from wearing the head-to-toe veil.

Burqa ban hearings begin in France
BURQA DEBATE: A panel of 32 lawmakers are considering whether to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil, known as a burqa or niqab in France. (Getty Images)

French lawmakers opened hearings Wednesday on whether to ban the burqa, calling in experts who said France should act to discourage Muslim women from wearing the head-to-toe veil.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has proclaimed the burka “not welcome” in secular France. 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, known as a burqa or niqab.

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

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

“It’s up to the republic to help Islam in our country choose its destiny and help French Muslims resist this pressure,” said Bidar. “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.

“The niqab entered Islam’s history a little more than 70 years ago while Islam dates back 14 centuries,” noted Bouzar. She suggested that 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, she argued.

As the hearings got under way, the leader of the governing right-wing majority in parliament came out in favor of a law banning the burqa 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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Mohammed 11 years ago

This so called expert called has no clue what he is talking about. Even a muslim kid would know that. And as for the Anthropologist she should read more to know that covering the face is in the Quran plus she will know that women during prophet time they covered their faces more than 1400 years ago

AJ 11 years ago

Clearly, the hearings were rigged with 'fake' experts. Clearly, the experts dont know what they are talking about. Clearly, Mohammed from Riyadh should have been on that panel. Clearly, he is from the 6th century to have 'concise' answers on the religion.

macca 11 years ago

Do what you want to do, but do it in Saudi Arabia please, and get the religious police to enforce it if you like. Leave the French alone to do what they want to do. Lets all live happily ever after....

bj 11 years ago

The world is made of many different places and cultures, this a fact, but if you have travelled to the middle east, they dont change for anyone, its there country, they have that right, and we respect that, but when they travell to western culture why should they not respect others culture. If the country they choose to live in says you cant where your burqa, well you have to respect that countries laws. If you dont like it move back to yr country, Arabs do not rule the world !!!!! we share this planet, its here for all

Mounir 11 years ago

Mohammed: No, women during the Prophets time did not cover their face; and covering the face is absolutely NOT in the quran; i challenge you to bring me a quote from the Quran where covering of the FACE is dictated (and the verse must mention the word 'face' and not something else. We believe in the Quran because its perfect and because it uses the proper words without any need for us to wonder about alternatives; so show me where the Quran orders women to cover their faces...or even wear the hijab and cover their hair). Macca: Women who wear the burqa in France are - drumroll please - FRENCH! they are french citizens with full french rights and obligations. Blame the french government for allowing so many muslims to come into the country.

macca 11 years ago

A wise sage in Manchester called manning once asked....If a dog is born in a stable do you call it a horse ? of course not, see the point ? I appreciate your comments to Mohammed, I think you are probably very learned in your religion, you should shout your knowledge from the rooftops.

Darya 11 years ago

I recommend to Mounir before making such accusation about Quran not calling for Burqua to go an revisit Quran once and twice again. I'm not sure why such a big fuss about Burqua in France. If a person wishes to use Burqua why not letting him do it. Isn't this personal freedom and personal decision that Western countries always call for. Whey it is such a big deal when it comes to Burqua. While Westerners comes to the Middle East and do what they want and they call this is personal freedom, but when it comes to wear Burqua in France it is a big deal and this is going backward etc.. Be fare guys. If you Westerners have freedom to wear all funy kind of cloths in the Middle East under the name of Freedom then why muslim ladies cannot wear Burqua in France under the title of Freedom. I got it, Freedom is only for Westerneres in Muslim countries but Muslims in Europe & France do not have such Freeom, simple Isn't it.

Qwaiker 11 years ago

Dear BJ and Mounir. It's true the Arabs or muslims don't rule the world, Its true the French have the right to do what they want in their country But for years Saudi Arabia has been criticised by westerners for not having freedom to wear what they want. What we are saying now is that by the French banning the burqa is just the same. They are now no better..there is no freedom in Saudi and no Freedom in France. Regardless of the way you see it. Some see the Burqa demeaning to women. Some see wearing mini skirts with private parts showing demeaning and a disgrace to women. two exteremes.

chris 11 years ago

@ Darya/Mohammed: If you're so sure that covering the face is indeed dictated in the Quran, then why don't u just quote the verse(s) here? i have spoken to many muslims, including a few emarati and they all say that covering ur hair is mandatory, but not the face. And before u claim that freedom is only for expats living in the middle east and not vice versa, please, please answer my simple question: what will happen to those who propagate any religion than islam in gulf countries? bear in mind the high percentage of non-muslims in these countries. seriously, u just can't compare the "freedom" expats have in gulf countries with the freedom u have in western countries (yep, US & EU countries included!)

Mounir 11 years ago

Darya: It is not enough for you to tell me to revist the quran once and twice again. My challenge was very simple, and very straightforward: bring forth the verse in arabic that clearly dictates that a woman must cover her face and hair. Do not bring me the Hadith - which is written by a man 250 years after the Prophet's death and based on absolute heresay that may or may not be true. Do not bring me any other source: The quran is clear on its prohibition of Alcohol, of Pork, of adultery and charging interest; it is clear that prayer is obligatory, and so is fasting and so on and so forth. Are you telling me that the Quran makes clear all these things yet 'forgets' to mention that covering the face and hair are also obligations?? do we need to resort to the word of a man to confirm what God apparantly had originally meant? If that is not blasphemy, i dont know what is.