Muslim women could be fined for wearing full face veils in public in France under a bill approved overwhelmingly on Tuesday by the lower house of parliament. Offenders would be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class. The bill, which critics say stigmatizes immigrants, bans people “from wearing, in a public place, garments designed to cover the face.”
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.
Prime Minister François Fillon has urged France’s Muslims to reject full face veils as a sectarian caricature of Islam, a week before parliament debates a law banning burqas and niqabs in public.
A Spanish town council has voted to ban the wearing of the face-covering Muslim veil in public buildings, the first authority in the predominantly Catholic country to do so.
Full Muslim face veils could become the next divisive religious issue to take centre stage in Switzerland, where voters last November approved a measure banning the construction of new minarets. The Swiss federal government said in February it saw no need for a “burqa ban.” Politicians at the national level say there’s no “burqa problem” in Switzerland. But few thought there was a “minaret problem” either, until the question was put to a national referendum and the minaret ban campaigners won.
France attempted the arguably impossible on Wednesday by presenting a bill to ban Muslim face veils and asking Muslims not to feel it was singling them out in the process.
Jean-François Copé on September 5, 2009/Olivier Pon
One of the most frequent questions I get from readers outside of France is how politicians here can justify banning Muslim face veils in public places. Isn’t this a blatant violation of the freedom of religion? Why isn’t this seen as such an obvious case of discrimination that legislators reject the idea outright?