France begins hearings on banning the veil

French lawmakers opened hearings Wednesday on whether to ban the burka, calling in experts who said France should act to discourage Muslim women from wearing the head-to-toe veil.

Islam expert Abdennour Bidar called the full veil a “pathology of Islam” embraced by hardline Salafists who tell Muslim women to cover themselves as a way to “get back to their roots”. “It’s up to the republic to help Islam in our country choose its destiny and help French Muslims resist this pressure,” said Bidar. “We must find ways to prevent the burka from spreading.”

Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar said young women had in recent years taken to wearing the full veil after being indoctrinated by “gurus” who pervert Islam’s teachings. She suggested that measures be adopted under France’s security laws barring citizens from concealing their identities by covering their faces, be it with a niqab, a ski mask or even a paper bag. Such a measure would apply equally to all citizens and ensure that France’s five million Muslims do not feel stigmatized for their religion, she argued.

As the hearings got under way, the leader of the governing right-wing majority in parliament came out in favour of a law banning the burka but said it should be preceded by a period of “dialogue” of six months to a year. “We must prohibit what should be prohibited but only after having explained why,” said Jean-Francois Cope, a leading figure in Sarkozy’s UMP party, in an interview to Le Parisien newspaper.

AFP, 8 July 2009

See also Bloomberg, 8 July 2009