In France, one month after the start of the nation’s burka ban, women wearing face-covering garments are being forced to remove their veil in public to avoid police harassment.
Five women were immediately detained by police for wearing the burka on city streets as they attempted to attend a conference on the effects of the law. The organizer of the conference was forcibly removed after he tried to talk to one of the women, who had become ill during questioning.
The conference was organized by the multicultural association Don’t Touch My Constitution. The group has raised funds to help women pay the 150-euro fine the law calls for, but they say they haven’t spent one cent.
Proponents of the law say the ban protects the country from religious radicalism, as well as France’s principle of secularism, or laicite in French.
Many Muslims have complained that French media coverage consistently ignores the religious convictions of those who wear the burka. Instead, the women are portrayed as mere tools, with domineering men controlling their every move.
The law, which was roundly criticized by police organizations, may not have led to mass arrests, but Muslim groups say they must provide a voice for the many women who have refused to leave the house for fear of embarrassment.
People say the French government is applying the law carefully, but unevenly. It seems they’re largely ignoring the heavily Muslim suburbs, but it also seems that police can still make a big show when they feel it’s necessary.
See also the New York Times which reports the French Interior Ministry as stating that police have stopped 46 women wearing face-veils in public, 27 of whom have been charged and will be fined about $215 or forced to take an official course on citizenship.