Strong support to outlaw face veils as France prepares to vote ban

July 12, 2010

France’s plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve — 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public.

burqa 1(Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland’s justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)

The big exception in the Pew poll is the United States, where 65% of those polled disapprove of a ban and only 28% support the idea. The poll did not investigate the reasons for this difference, so we can only assume it has to do with the more widespread acceptance of religion in public life in the U.S. and a more open approach to immigration.

The brief analysis that Pew published showed that support for a “burqa ban” seems pretty strong across the pollsters’ demographic categories. It said:

“Opinions about banning Muslim women from wearing a full veil do not vary along gender lines in any of the five countries where the question was asked. In France, Britain and the U.S., views on this matter are also similar across education and income groups. However, in Spain and Germany, those in higher income groups are more likely than the less affluent to approve of such a ban; for example, a slim majority (51%) of low-income respondents in Spain favor a ban on full veils, compared with 62% of those in the middle-income range and 68% of those with high incomes.

“Ideologically, those on the right in France, Britain and Germany are more likely than those on the left to approve of a ban on women wearing the full Islamic veil in public places, but majorities across the political spectrum in these countries endorse such a ban. In France, 87% of those on the right support prohibiting women from wearing full veils in public, and 75% of those on the political left agree. Spain is the only Western European country surveyed where those on both ends of the ideology scale express nearly identical views; 59% of those on the right and 57% of those on the left approve of a ban on Muslim women wearing veils that cover the whole face. Ideological differences are also insignificant in the U.S.”

french national assemblyIn the latest twist to this story in France, businessman Rachid Nekkaz is offering to sell properties to set up a one million euro fund to help Muslim women pay the 150 euro fine they may receive for wearing the full veil in public if the ban becomes law.

(Photo: French National Assembly in Paris, December 12, 2006/Charles Platiau)

He has set up an association, ‘Hands off my Constitution’, which he said viewed banning the veil in the street as unconstitutional, although it was not opposed to a ban in public places. Read the full story here.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing UMP party has announced it will submit the law to the Constitutional Council for approval before promulgating it. The Council of State, another top judicial body which advises the government on legislation before it is passed, has already warned twice that a full ban could be unconstitutional.

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[...] 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 [...]