In France, the fight for the right to stay a completely secular state has just taken an interesting turn. I remember in 2004 when head coverings were banned in public schools thinking that I was glad that I was not a student in France as being a Jew as I am involves wearing a head covering. Covering your face is now prohibited in public places in France, and I’m not sure it’s necessarily a step in the right direction for France. In addition to banning the niqab, the full face veil that Muslim women wear, the ban also includes masks, hooded jackets as well as anything else that covers the face.
The ban has even led to people being arrested — albeit indirectly —
At least two women have been briefly detained in France while wearing Islamic veils, after a law banning the garment in public came into force. Police said they were held not because of their veils but for joining an unauthorised protest, and they were later released.
I wondered what would bring about such a law and then I think of the e-mail forwards I get describing the threat of radical Islam culture, suicide bombers, etc. Then I read this:
The fine for wearing a face covering publicly is EU €150 (US $208) plus the obligation to attend a citizenship class as a reminder of France’s secular underpinnings. Some exceptions are when a woman is worshipping in a religious place or traveling as a passenger in a private car. Any family member or other party found to have coerced a woman into wearing a face covering could incur a EU €30,000 (US $48,717) fine and spend a year in prison.
In other words, it is not so much about security (hence hoods and anything covering the face, not just niqabs) as it is about reminding people that they live in a secular country. I suppose people looking for a religious country should perhaps consider looking elsewhere — like a person who drinks who moves to a dry county. It would be nice if the people passing bills like these would just be more honest and give the real reason for bans like these and not hide behind false politically correct reasoning.
This is definitely a fascinating topic, Gordon. I can understand the security reasons for wanting to see someone’s face in public at all times — you can’t cover your face or wear a hooded sweatshirt over your head at the Mall of America — but the France ban seems to not only be based on secularism, but also on gender equality.
I wonder if it may lead to other bans — bans on wearing skirts with tights, for example, as that may be seen as gender inequality by some.