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.
Inaugurating a mosque in a northwestern Paris suburb, he said French Muslims should combat a tiny radical minority using face veils as a way to combat the integration of a tolerant Islam that respects the separation of church and state. (Photo: Prime Minister François Fillon at podium inaugurating the Al Ihsan mosque, 28 June 2010/Benoit Tessier)
“The Islam of France, the Islam you practice daily, has nothing to do with this caricature that dims the lights of your faith,” Fillon, the most senior French politician to inaugurate a mosque in decades, said to applause from the crowd. “You should stand in the front line against this hijacking of the religious message … it’s up to you to make intelligence triumph over obscurantism and tolerance over intolerance.”
As Fillon spoke, a woman in the western city of Nantes was on trial for driving while wearing a niqab. Police had fined her for wearing a garment that blocked her lateral vision, and the case went to court when she and her husband challenged it.
Her lawyer accused the police of racial profiling and said no law barred drivers from wearing niqabs with only a slit open for the eyes. “The niqab is no worse than the helmet worn by Formula 1 drivers who spin around the circuits at 320 km/h and yet who can still look in their rearview mirrors,” he said.