On April 11th, France’s anti-burka law officially became enforceable throughout the country. The law, which was originally passed by lawmakers on October 11th, 2010, bans citizens from wearing full face veils in public. An individual choosing to wear a face veil may only do so in their residence, a private car, or a place of worship. If defiant, the police may impose a 150 Euro fine on the offender. Those primarily affected by this new law are Muslim women, numbering between 350-2,000, whom chose to wear the burka.
Although it has been thought there are numerous reasons behind the veil ban, France explains the law was passed to maintain a traditional sense of European identity. As stated by Robert Marquand of Christian Science Monitor, “the law simply affirms that citizens should show their faces as a matter of French values of openness.” When initially creating the law, left-wing lawmakers supported the law based on the idea that wearing full face veils is dehumanizing to women. On the right-wing side, lawmakers supported the law on the basis that full face veils do not agree with traditional French culture. Also, some believed allowing citizens to wear face veils poses security risks. Regardless of the reasoning behind the ban, polls taken in 2010 showed French citizens strongly supported the ban. According to a Reuters article written before the law was passed, “France’s plan to ban full face veils enjoys 82% popular support in the country.”
On the first day of the enacted ban, about a dozen peaceful Muslim protestors wearing face veils gathered in front of Notre Dame. A few protesters were detained including Kenza Drider. Drider explained, “I’m not here to provoke, but to defend my civil liberties as a French citizen.” However, as covered by Catholic Online, “Officers said the women were not detained for their niqabs but because their protest had not been authorized.”
In response to the new French law, European Freedom Initiative wrote “Many Muslim leaders have said they support neither the veil nor the law banning it.” Amongst French Muslims wearing the face veil, there have been numerous reactions. Some vowed to continue wearing a face veil in public and plan to take their case to European human rights court should they be charged. Others choosing not to risk prosecution moved abroad or simply decided to permanently remove their face veils.
France’s ban on wearing full face veils in public creates an interesting topic for debate. While many democratic countries promoting international religious freedom believe individuals should be permitted to practice their religion as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, banning full face veils because they do not promote “classic” French culture may seem like a stretch. As polls indicated many European countries bordering France also support full face veil bans, do you foresee similar laws passing outside of France? Is this ban justifiable or an infringement on human rights and religious freedom?
Filed Under: Religious Liberty