FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Any color, as long as it’s blue

Wiesbaden, Germany

By Ralph Orlowski

It was a cold and blustery winter morning when I arrived at the warm and cozy gallery rooms of the Hesse Nassau Art Club in Wiesbaden to take pictures of the exhibition "Bourquoi". This was to be my third attempt to take photographs of viewers at the show. So far I had not been successful at finding any willing visitors. I wondered whether this could be because of the compulsory dress code. The title of the exhibition "Bourquoi" by Turkish-German artist Naneci Yurdaguel is a play on the two words ‘pourqui' -- the French word for 'why' – and “Burka”.

I took off my big awkward padded winter coat only to be handed an equally, if not more, awkward “Burka” by the gallery assistant. I was told the only way to photograph or view the exhibition was while wearing it. No exceptions – not for male visitors or even for journalists.

Finally two visitors arrived – a man and a woman who were also willing to pull over an original Kabul burka. The organizers of the exhibition had flown in about a dozen original blue Burkas from the Afghan capital. I expected the visitors to be giggling and laughing when they changed to fulfill the dress code. But everyone was surprisingly extremely quiet and respectful.

My initial thought was to photograph the visitors all the time through the eye-grid of the burka. This turned out to be more difficult than expected. I simply did not have enough space to fit the camera underneath. I could not look through the viewfinder. I must have looked pretty clumsy trying to focus my camera. Thank goodness for the camera's auto-focus.

Despite not being as heavy as I expected, the 100% polyester garment proved to be quite claustrophobic. I found breathing pretty difficult and I could not see where I was stepping. One has to look down all the time not to fall over one’s own feet.

France starts ban on full-face veil, factbox on veils in Europe

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(Kenza Drider, a French Muslim of North African descent, wearing a niqab at the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris April 11, 2011/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

France’s ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force on Monday, making anyone wearing the Muslim niqab or burqa in public liable to a fine of 150 euros or lessons in French citizenship.

Mainstream Muslim groups, which had a six-month grace period after the law was passed to explain it to their supporters,  opted not to protest at its entry into force. “We’ve already had our debate about the law and now our position is clear: we respect French law 100 percent,” said a spokesman for the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

France’s ban on full face veils goes into force

(Official poster for the information campaign about France's full face veil ban/SIG)

(Official poster for the information campaign about France's full face veil ban. The quote says "Nobody can wear clothes meant to hide the face in public."/SIG)

France’s ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force Monday, exposing anyone who wears the Muslim niqab or burqa in public to fines of 150 euros (£131.90).  France’s five-million-strong Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest, but fewer than 2,000 women are believed actually to wear a full face veil. Many Muslim leaders have said they support neither the veil nor the law banning it.

The timing is sensitive after France’s ruling political party, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP, called a debate on the place of Islam in France, a move that some say risked stigmatising a portion of the population.

French police arrest protesters before burqa ban goes into effect

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(A Muslim woman protests against France's banning of full face veils from public spaces, outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

French police have arrested 59 people who turned up for a banned protest over the banning of the Muslim full face veil, a police spokesman said. The measure goes into force on Monday and prohibits wearing the full veil, the burqa, in all public places, with a 150 euro ($216) fine for offenders.

The spokesman said 20 of those arrested on Saturday had turned up for the prohibited protest at the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris wearing the full veil. One person was arrested on arrival in France from Britain and one came from Belgium.

France to enforce ban on full Muslim face veils from April

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(A Muslim woman at a demonstration against France's banning of full face veils from public spaces, outside the French Embassy in London, September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

France will start enforcing a ban next month on full Islamic face veils, officials said on Thursday, meaning any veiled woman can be summoned to a police station and asked to remove her face-covering or pay a fine. Officials say the law is mainly symbolic and police will not call in every veiled woman they see to avoid stigmatising Muslims.

The ban forbids wearing any garment concealing the face in a public space, namely the street, public transport, shops, schools, courtrooms, hospitals and government buildings.  From April 11, police are instructed to summon veil-wearers to a station, where they will be asked to remove the garment for “identification” and leave it off. If the wearer refuses to remove it they will be fined up to 150 euros ($208).

Conservative German state bans burqas for civil servants

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A French Muslim wearing a niqab veil in Nantes, April 23, 2010/Stephane Mahe

Hesse, a state run by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, on Wednesday became the first German region to ban Muslim face veils for public sector workers.

Hesse Interior Minister Boris Rhein announced it was “not acceptable” for the teacher in Frankfurt to wear a face veil because “public sector workers are obligated to have neutral religious and political views”.

The decision was prompted by a local teacher who had told her school she wanted to wear a burqa in the classroom after returning from maternity leave. She had not previously worn one.

Dutch may introduce burqa ban as early as 2011

wilders (Photo: Geert Wilders in The Hague, December 16, 2010/Jerry Lampen)

The Netherlands could ban full face veils worn by some Muslim women,as soon as next year, Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. Wilders’ populist Freedom Party is the third largest in parliament and provides crucial support to the minority ruling coalition in exchange for the government taking a tougher line on Islam and immigration from non-Western countries.

His party has grown in popularity largely because of his outspoken criticism of Islam, which he describes as “a violent ideology.” He has been charged with inciting hatred against Muslims for comparing Islam to Nazism. The case is due to start over again following a request for new judges.

“We are not a single issue party but the fight against a fascist ideology Islam is for us of the utmost importance,” said Wilders, who argues his comments about Islam are protected by freedom of speech.

Much ado about nothing: fine for niqab-wearing French driver dropped

niqab (Photo: Sandrine Mouleres, June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

A French police tribunal has annulled a 22 euro ($29.50) fine against a woman found wearing a niqab while driving in the western city of Nantes last April. The case fuelled not just one but two separate debates in France, one on banning the “burqa” and another on polygamy among immigrants. Full veils have been legally banned, the polygamy debate has temporarily fizzled out and Sandrine Mouleres, the Muslim convert who challenged the fine, seems to have come out a winner. For now, at least…

The tribunal annulled the traffic ticket issued by officers who argued that Mouleres could not see properly while wearing her niqab, which covered her face but left an opening for her eyes. As her lawyer Jean-Michel Pollono put it: “This means one can drive today with a niqab. There is no danger as long as whatever the driver wears doesn’t block her vision. A niqab moves with the head.”

The second debate, about polygamy, arose when it was reported that Mouleres was one of four wives of an Algerian-born man, Liès Hebbadj, and he might be collecting family allowances for all four. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux suggested he might be stripped of his French nationality if found guilty of these allegations. Hebbadj fought back by saying he doesn’t have four wives, but one wife and three mistresses (and 12 children among them). “If one can be stripped of one’s French nationality for having mistresses, then many French could lose theirs,” said Hebbadj, a halal butcher in Nantes.

“Burqa bans”: First France, then the Netherlands – who’s next?

veil 1First the French banned Muslim face veils, now the Dutch have decided to follow suit. With debates about outlawing burqas and niqabs spreading across Europe, a third ban — perhaps even more — may not be far behind. (Photo: A Muslim woman protests against France’s banning of full face veils outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

Only a small minority of Muslim women in Europe cover their faces, but their veils have become ominous symbols for Europeans troubled by problems such as the economic crisis, immigration and Muslim integration.

With Europe’s political mood moving to the right, low-cost, high-symbolism measures such as veil bans have become a rallying cry for far-right parties knocking at the door of power. Their appeal also resonates with those worried by possible security threats from masked people or offended by the blow to gender equality they see when a covered woman walks by.

Dutch government pact sealed with ban on “burqas” to win Wilders support

veil (Photo: A Muslim woman protests against France’s ban on full face veils outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

Two centre-right parties agreed on Thursday to ban full face veils in the Netherlands as the price for parliamentary support from the anti-Islam Freedom party for their planned minority government.

The Netherlands would become the second European Union country to ban Muslim veils — known collectively as burqas in many European countries — after France, in what many see as a shift to the right which has dented the bloc’s reputation for tolerance and may increase security risks.

The draft agreement tightens the rules on immigration and boosts the number of police officers in a concession to far-right Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who is on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims.