French parliamentary committee recommends face veil ban

Posted Jan 26, 2010 by R. C. Camphausen
In a 200-page report, the French parliamentary committee has backed President Sarkozy's plan to ban the Muslim face veil from most of the nation's public life.
Untitled (cr. Dade Crush)
While previous opinion polls in France have suggested that a majority of the French people would support a full ban, the parliamentary deputies have now recommended that restrictions on wearing a veil should be limited. This long-awaited report follows months of public debate and speculation after President Nicolas Sarkozy had stated that all full veils were "not welcome in France".
The present proposal includes a ban inside hospitals, schools, government offices and other public buildings, as well as on public transport. Sanctions for wearing a veil in offices would, for example, be a denial of service, meaning that a veiled person could not apply for - or pick up - state benefits.
As the website of France 24 states, the proposed ban has been a divisive issue among lawmakers in France. On the left, banning the veil in public institutions only is regarded as not going far enough, while others believe any ban would stigmatise the country’s large Muslim community. However, among France's five million Muslim citizens, there seem to be only approximately 2,000 who actually wear the veil.
There are two types of facial veils for Muslim women, the niqab and the burka. In France, the niqab is the version most commonly worn, a veil that usually leaves the eyes clear yet is sometimes used in conjunction with a separate eye veil. The burka, on the other hand, covers the eyes as well while allowing the wearer to view the world through a small window with bars made of cloth.
A typical burqa (burka) veils the complete face
A typical burqa (burka) veils the complete face
Although the report opts for the limited ban described above, the committee also stated "The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess." The committee also recommends that anyone, from whatever background, who shows visible signs of a "radical religious practice" should be refused residence cards and citizenship.
In November 2009, Italy was the first European country to ban the wearing of niqab or burka in streets or public places, authorizing police to demand its removal. The Dutch government shied away from a similar regulation, leaving it to the transport authorities to deal with the matter.
A BBC report today added the following note:
Meanwhile, the head of Mr Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party has already presented a bill in parliament supporting a full ban on grounds of security.