- Title: FRANCE: French goverment moves towards ban on Islamic burqa "face covering"
- Date: 22nd April 2010
- Summary: MARSEILLE, FRANCE (APRIL 21, 2010) (REUTERS) "PORTE D'AIX" ARCH IN MARSEILLE CLOSE OF INSCRIPTION ON ARCH (French): MARSEILLE, GRATEFUL TO THE REPUBLIC
- Embargoed: 7th May 2010 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: Domestic Politics,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA79HC4E1ZYN5KRQJ4BASMT4RZR
- Story Text: France is moving towards a ban on wearing face-covering Islamic veils in public, with the government set to examine a bill next month amid heated debate over womens' rights and religious freedom.
President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke out in favour of a complete ban on Wednesday (April 21) and the relevant bill will be presented to cabinet in May, government spokesman Luc Chatel told reporters.
Chatel quoted Sarkozy as saying that the law would not legislate against Muslims but would aim to preserve the dignity of women and the Republic's founding principle of liberty for all.
"The ban on the wearing of the full veil must be an overall one, in all public places, because a woman's dignity cannot be divided. The second natural principle, that everything possible must be done so that we do not feel stigmatised because of this faith and religious practice," Chatel said. "There is no religious approach to this dossier. It's not about legislating against one religion, conversely many ministers put forward the positions of Muslim community leaders, keeping in mind that the burqa was never a religious requirement. So there is no desire on the part of the government, but it's important that a message is spread in France and abroad that this is not a stigmatisation of one community. It's simply a reaffirmation of a principle of the Republic, of liberty and of the dignity of women." he added.
But many members of France's several-million-strong Muslim community believe that in fact the law would violate the liberty of the women involved by restricting their freedom not only to practise their religion but also to dress as they wished, religious or otherwise.
"It's not democratic and this is going to bolster the National Front. And this law... we're free to dress as we like. If you want to go topless, you go topless. Liberty is necessary. Everyone is free to choose. It's not the veil that'll bother the world," said Amar Im, shopping at a market in Marseille.
"If a woman is a Muslim, practises her religion and wants to wear her veil, that is part of the idea of liberty. And if you force her not to wear it that's a total contradiction of everything French life stands for. We say we're in a free, democratic and good country that lets people express their religious beliefs," added another shopper, Kamel Benakeur.
Reda Geudider agreed saying: "I think that we're mumbling about the French constitution but that has nothing to do with religion. Passing laws about clothes regarding a religion, that's totally stupid because... I don't think it's right."
A ban on the burqa has been long-debated in France, a secular country which keeps the state and religion separate and bases itself on the three founding principles of the French Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity. It remains to be seen how well this new proposal sits with these three values in the eyes of the public.
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