In a move that was expected but has already begun to cause controversy, the French Senate passed a bill banning the burqa, niqab and other full-body robes worn by Muslim women. The Assembly passed the bill earlier in the summer, and it will be reviewed by France’s Constitutional Council before it becomes law.
“Showing one’s face is a question of dignity and equality in our republic,” said Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie during Tuesday’s debate in the Senate, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The move has been criticized by some because of the small numbers of French Muslim women who choose to veil completely, saying that it was a move to stigmatize the growing numbers of Muslim immigrants, and make it clear to them that they needed to assimilate to French cultural traditions. Others said that the veil was an affront to French republican values, saying that face-to-face contact is necessary for active communication.
The ban will apply to everyone in France, including visitors. Women who are found to be violating the ban will face a maximum fine of 150 euros (and could be asked to attend a course on republican values). People who are found guilty of forcing others to veil have a far greater penalty – they could be fined up to 30,000 euros and even be jailed for a year.
The law was passed with only one dissenting vote. We’ll have more on the law as French citizens have time to react, but it certainly will be a marker of how laws like this will be accepted in other parts of Europe, should countries choose to enact them.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.