FaithWorld

French Muslim rejects polygamist charge, says has wife and 3 lovers

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Liès Hebbadj and his wife Anne after she was fined for wearing a niqab while driving, in Nantes on April 26, 2010/Stephane Mahe

France’s debate about Muslim face veils has taken an ironic twist. An Algerian-born Muslim man who is a naturalised French citizen has fought back against charges of polygamy by saying he doesn’t have four wives, but one wife and three mistresses (and 12 children among them). What could be more French than that? he asked journalists on Monday as politicians debated how they could strip him of his citizenship.

“If one can be stripped of one’s French nationality for having mistresses, then many French could lose theirs,” Liès Hebbadj, a halal butcher in the western city of Nantes, said after visiting the lawyer for his wife, who was fined for driving while wearing a full facial veil.

That moving violation is what got this curious story rolling. After Mrs. Hebbadj — a French-born woman who goes by the assumed name Anne in this saga — was fined, it emerged that her husband was believed to be a polygamist drawing family support payments for each wife separately.  The DWV (driving while veiled) charge would have been enough to fan the fire of a national debate about banning full facial veils such as niqabs or burqas.

The polygamy link suddenly added additional fuel. Indeed, it seems to have overtaken the debate among the politicians in Paris. It’s hard to say what will happen, but this could lead to closer scrutiny of polygamy among immigrants, in addition to the “burqa ban” that President Nicolas Sarkozy seems intent to push through. There appears to be some polygamy among a tiny minority of Muslim and non-Muslim African immigrants, but I haven’t seen any overall figures on this. The police intelligence services may have their own internal figure, but it hasn’t become a media factoid yet like their famous 2,000 guesstimate for veiled women.

French driver fined for wearing niqab, most French want a ban

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(Anne, an assumed name, a 31-year old French woman who has been fined for wearing a niqab while driving, at a news conference in Nantes, April 23, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

A 31-year-old French woman has been fined for wearing a niqab while driving, a further sign of France’s bid to clamp down on the face-covering Islamic veil which President Nicolas Sarkozy says demeans women. The unnamed woman told LCI television that police stopped her last month while she was driving in Nantes, near the French Atlantic coast.

She was wearing a black niqab, that covers the face but leaves the eyes exposed. Police handed her a 22-euro ($29) fine, saying her clothing posed a “safety risk” to her driving. “My eyes were not covered. I can see just like you and my field of vision was not obstructed,” said the woman, who did not give her name. She said she would appeal against the decision.

Belgian government collapse delays burqa ban vote

A woman wearing a niqab walks on a street in Saint-Denis, near Paris, April 2, 2010/Regis Duvignau

The collapse of Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s five-month-old government coalition on Thursday meant that a ban on full Muslim facial veils expected to be passed in the afternoon has been put off for some time. Just how long is unknown right now — it could come back up for consideration again as early as next week if parliament is not dissolved and new elections called.

The bill due for a vote today received unanimous backing in parliament’s home affairs committee on March 31. The draft law proposed to criminalize wearing clothing that covers all or part of the face, including the facial veil known as the niqab and the full outer garment, or burqa, widely worn in Afghanistan.

France moves towards banning Muslim veil in public

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President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers speech on security issues in Bobigny, near Paris, April 20, 2010/Benoit Tessier

France is moving toward a ban on wearing face-covering Islamic veils in public, with the government set to examine a draft bill next month amid heated debate over women’s rights and religious freedom.  Most French voters back a ban, polls have shown, but legal experts have warned that it could violate the constitution.

President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke out in favor for a complete ban on Wednesday, and the relevant bill will be presented to the cabinet in May, government spokesman Luc Chatel said on Wednesday. Sarkozy believed that the full veil, commonly referred to as the burqa in France, “hurts the dignity of women and is not acceptable in French society,” he told reporters.

European push to ban burqas appalls Afghan women

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Afghan widows line up during a cash for work project in Kabul January 6, 2010/Ahmad Masood

A firm believer in women’s rights, the only thing Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail finds as appalling as being forced to wear a burqa is a law banning it.

Karokhail is one of many Afghan women who see a double standard in efforts by some European nations to outlaw face veils and burqas — a move they say restricts a Muslim woman’s choice in countries that otherwise make a fuss about personal rights.

Belgian committee backs banning Islamic face veil in public

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Muslim women protest against a ban on headscarves in some schools, 4 Feb 2004/Yves Herman

A Belgian parliamentary committee voted Wednesday to ban the full Islamic face veil, a move that, if ratified, could make Belgium the first country to enforce such a ban.

The lower house of parliament will vote on the bill on April 22 and it could enter into law in June or July.

France’s “burqa ban” and the “Sarkozy shuffle” to shape it

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The French National Assembly in Paris, 13 March 2000/Frédéric de La Mure

Efforts by French politicians to “ban the burqa” hit the wall of constitutional reality today when the Council of State, France’s top administrative court, said there was no legal way Paris could completely outlaw full Islamic veils in public. The issue has been at the centre of complex and sometimes heated debate in France in recent months, but it wasn’t clear until now how far French and European law would allow the state to go. We still don’t know exactly what the law will look like, but the back story to today’s report is a tale in itself.

Sarkozy launched the veil debate last year in a replay of an earlier campaign strategy to capture votes from the anti-foreigner National Front by veering to the right. Regional elections were coming up this March and his right-wing UMP party hoped to win control of more than the 2 regions it governed out of the 22 regions in metropolitan France.   In the end, they lost one of them in an embarrassing election wipeout that saw a strong showing for the National Front. So, shortly after that slap in the face, Sarkozy toughened up his stand a bit more. Among the measures he promised was a law banning the full Islamic facial veil. sarkozy 1

President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace in Paris, 24 March 2010/Benoit Tessier

Opinion: Why France is right about the burqa

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Women wearing niqabs in Marseille, December 24, 2009/Jean-Paul Pelissier

global_post_logoThis article by Olivier Guitta originally appeared in GlobalPost.

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The burqa has nothing to do with religion. It is a way for fanatical men to control women.

PARIS, France — In his 2009 Cairo address to the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned no fewer than three times the issue of the headscarf, or hijab. Each time, his purpose was to stress “the right of women and girls to wear the hijab” — but never their right not to wear it.

Needless to say, Obama’s stance did not gain him popularity among a large portion of Muslim women who had been angling to be free of the hijab  for quite some time.

Hubbub over halal in France

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A Quick fast food restaurant in Roubaix, 18 Feb 2010/Pascal Rossignol

After the noise over the niqab, now there’s a hubbub over halal in France.

Police in the northern city of Lille launched an investigation on Friday into claims that a fast food restaurant was discriminating against non-Muslim customers by dropping bacon burgers from its menu and using only halal meat. The public prosecutor ordered the probe after the Socialist mayor of the nearby town of Roubaix sued the Quick fast food chain for switching to follow Muslim dietary laws in eight of its 350 branches.

Quick — a rival to far larger global chains like McDonald’s in France and Belgium — now offers smoked turkey and halal beef and no pork in those branches.  “Why should the people of Roubaix be forced to go to Lille or elsewhere to find bacon?” Franck Berton, the lawyer for Mayor René Vandierendonck, asked when we asked him about this case.

France creates paper trail in campaign against Muslim veils

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--- A fully veiled woman walks past the city hall in Ronchin, northern France, 9 Aug 2009/Farid Alouache ---

France is building up an interesting paper trail in its campaign to ban full-face Muslim veils. The latest twist in this story is that Immigration Minister Eric Besson has denied citizenship to a foreign man said to have imposed the wearing of a full-face veil on his wife, a French citizen. “He was depriving her of her liberty to come and go with her face uncovered and rejected the principles of secularism and equality between men and women,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister François Fillon said he would sign a decree Besson had drafted to make this kind of constraint an obstacle to naturalisation.

This is not the first piece of paper on this trail. A veiled Moroccan woman was denied citizenship in 2008, a decision the State Council upheld on appeal. That occurred before the “ban the burqa” activism that led to the parliamentary commission that recommended last month France explicitly outlaw the full veil. The argument in the 2008 case was not about the veil itself, for example as a security risk because the person cannot be easily identified, but about a “radical religious practice that is incompatible with the essential values of the French community.”