French Parliament Passes Law Banning Burqas

by INFIDEL on September 16, 2010

By DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS And CHARLES FORELLE

Excerpt From Wall Street Journal

PARIS—France risked the wrath of the Islamic world on Tuesday by banning burqas and other full-body robes worn by some Muslim women, in a long-debated move that shows the depth of concern over the rise of Muslim culture in Europe.

The legislation adopted Tuesday by the Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, forbids people from concealing their faces in public. It makes no reference to Islam, and includes exceptions for people who need to cover up for work reasons, such as riot police and surgeons.

But it follows a year-long campaign by Mr. Sarkozy’s ruling party against the burqa and niqab, head-to-toe robes worn by a small number of France’s Muslim women. The burqa is “a sign of enslavement and debasement,” Mr. Sarkozy said last year.

The legislation adopted Tuesday by the Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, forbids people from concealing their faces in public. It makes no reference to Islam, and includes exceptions for people who need to cover up for work reasons, such as riot police and surgeons.

The bill is scheduled to come into force after six months. It has already passed the lower house, the National Assembly. At the Parliament’s request, the law will be reviewed by France’s Constitutional Council before it takes effect. The Council, which reviews the constitutionality of laws after they are passed by Parliament but before they are put into force, has rejected several bills in recent years. It can censor all or part of the law deemed to contradict the nation’s bylaws.

The ban would apply to everyone in France, including visitors. Offenders face a maximum fine of €150 (about $190) and could be asked to attend courses on what the government calls “republican values.” Individuals who encourage others to ignore the ban would face tougher penalties: up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of €30,000.

Republican values also include freedom of religion, which makes it problematic to outlaw niqabs and burqas. Before Mr. Sarkozy’s government submitted the bill to lawmakers, France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État, or State Council, which advises the government on proposed laws, said an outright ban on burqas might not be compatible with the country’s “international commitments on human rights.”

Most woman wearing the niqab in France are French nationals—often born to North African parents—who can be seen in suburban areas near Paris, Lyon and Lille. They say the full-body robe is a tool to concentrate on their religious faith and that the planned ban would infringe on their freedom. Some Muslim women say they would get friends to do shopping and run errands for them rather than go out in public with their faces uncovered. Niqab-clad women sometimes spotted in central Paris are usually tourists from the Persian Gulf.

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