FaithWorld

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.

Also on Friday, the Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux requested the Immigration Ministry look into revoking the naturalised French nationality of the driver’s husband as information he possessed showed the man was a polygamist married to four women with 12 children. Read the full story here.

An opinion poll published on Saturday showed that two-thirds of French people want a law limiting the use of face-covering Islamic veils such as the niqab and the burqa, with only a minority backing the government’s plan for a complete ban.

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.

Headscarf row re-opens old wounds for Algerians

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Algerian women walk past an election poster of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Batna, 500 km (311 miles) east of Algiers, March 19, 2009/Louafi Larbi

A decision by Algeria’s government that women should pose for passport photographs without their Islamic headscarves has re-opened wounds still raw after nearly two decades of Islamist militant violence.

Algeria’s secular-minded government says that as part of the introduction of new biometric passports, all women should be photographed without the veil, a requirement that has angered the country’s influential religious traditionalists.

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

Muslim women hail India vote to reserve parliament seats for women

Indian Muslim women reacted positively to a bill passed by the upper house of parliament last week that would reserve one-third of seats in the directly elected lower house of parliament and the state assemblies for women. There are 59 women lawmakers in the lower house of parliament at present, out of a maximum of 545. The bill must still be passed by the lower house, the Lok Sabha.

Championed both by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, the legislation aims to help empower women politically and thus economically in a country where they lag far behind on many social and health indicators.

While parliament is mostly populated by older men, India has a history of women at the top of the political class, including Sonia Gandhi and her mother-in-law, the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A Mafia-like “omertà” on sexual abuse in the Catholic hierarchy?

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Protest against the clergy child sex abuse scandal in Boston outside Cardinal Bernard Law's Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, on Mother's Day, May 12, 2002/Jim Bourg

The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has published an interesting article saying the Catholic Church might have avoided some of the clerical sex abuse scandals it now has if more women were in decision-making positions. The Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia says that women “would have been able to rip the veil of masculine secrecy that in the past often covered with silence the denunciation of these misdeeds.” The word she used for “secrecy” is omertà, the  Italian term for “code of silence” well known to anyone who’s seen the Godfather movies or read about how the Mafia works.

Scaraffia writes that Pope John Paul said women should be given posts of equal importance as men and that Pope Benedict has written to bishops promoting collaboration between men and women in the Church. She then writes, in a rather academic style:

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.

Race and religion pose risks in Malaysian politics

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Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) leaves Friday prayers at Putra Mosque in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur July 10, 2009/Bazuki Muhammad

Rising political tension in Malaysia over ethnic and religious rivalries and the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim are key challenges facing the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The National Front ruling coalition’s dominance through 52 years in power was dented by historic losses in 2008 polls, shifting the political landscape and increasing political friction. Many voters, especially the country’s Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities, abandoned the National Front in favour of Anwar’s three-party opposition and show little signs of returning to the coalition.