French president Nicolas Sarkozy backed off previous statements in support of a public ban on the full Muslim veil to prevent Jean-Francois Cope, his party’s Parliamentary leader, to rush through an “anti-burka law.”
Sarkozy opened the door to an outright ban in June, criticizing the veil as a symbol opposed to French values. But he moved quickly Wednesday to tell leaders in Parliament why an outright ban would be “unworkable.”
“The full veil is not welcome in France because it is contrary to our values and contrary to the ideals we have of a woman’s dignity,” he said. “But it is vital to conduct ourselves in a way that no-one feels stigmatised. We must find a solution which enables us to win the widest support.”
Though many members of Parliament would support the ban, it’s too early to say whether the law will pass, according to the Washington Post.
The draft of the law reads: “No one may, in spaces open to the public and on public streets, wear a garment or an accessory that has the effect of hiding the face.”
The bill would be the second time the French government targeted Muslim dress. A 2004 law banned Muslim headscarves and other “ostentacious” religious symbols from public schools. Anyone who refuses to remove the scarf would be fined $1,090 under the new law, which will no doubt be hotly debated this spring.
A column in The Guardian criticized Sarkozy for backpedaling his stance on the issue, stating that “the vast majority of French people, including most Muslims, believe that face coverings should be banned completely.”
The column’s author, Nabila Ramdani, said only 2,000 women of the country’s 5 to 6 million Muslims choose to wear the scarf.
By targeting his tokenistic policies and soundbites at a harmless minority, Sarkozy and his cronies succeed in linking Islam with everything from sexism to national security threats. If these associations are genuine, then they should be dealt with in a manner which is honest and unambiguous. Anything less results in weak compromises engendering nothing but fear and suspicion, often without anybody really understanding why.