France’s interior minister says that since a ban on face-covering Islamic veils took effect in April only six women have been convicted and fined.
Claude Gueant said in an interview with the daily Le Monde published Monday that no woman has been sent to a citizenship class – another potential punishment.
Controversy surrounded the law. Muslim leaders, most of them opposed to burqa-style veils, say it stigmatizes all followers of Islam.
Gueant says police cited a total of 237 women but only six were convicted. He expressed surprise that nearly a quarter of the women police questioned had converted to Islam.
Backers say the law is aimed at ensuring France’s secular values and gender equality and nipping radical Islam in the bud.
In reality, one French Muslim woman – Hind Amas – has been sentenced to 15 days’ “citizenship service” after being convicted of wearing the veil, and faces a possible two years in prison and €30,000 fine because she has refused to accept the sentence.
In the Le Monde interview Gueant stated that in 2012 there would be neither controversy nor rows over Islam or the presence of Muslims in France. He described Islam as “open, tolerant, vibrant, fully integrated into our society” and claimed that he was opposed only to “radical Islam”.
Presumably Gueant was tailoring his message to the readers of a liberal newspaper, but the actual practice of the Sarkozy government towards Muslims and other communities of migrant origin is very different. Cf. “France stiffens citizenship requirements”, Los Angeles Times, 2 January 2012
(Admittedly, Gueant’s measures don’t go far enough for some critics.)