Only 367 Muslim women in France wear full veil – report

Only 367 women in France wear Islamic veils that cover their faces and bodies, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, undermining the position of politicians who are pushing for a ban on the garments.

A panel of legislators is studying the issue of whether the number of women wearing such veils is on the rise and why. The panel is expected to say in coming months whether it backs a ban on the veils in public places, as advocated by some politicians.

The influential newspaper Le Monde said that in light of the tiny number of women concerned, the idea of a ban should be dropped. “Do we need to legislate for fewer than 400 people, legislate for an exception? … Given the risks, including the stigmatisation of Islam … the answer is no,” it said in an editorial.

The intelligence reports cited by Le Monde suggest that the reality of women who cover their faces in France, and why, is quite different from the description given by politicians.

The reports say most women who wear full veils are under 30 and do so to make a political point. Outraged by what they see as widespread anti-Muslim sentiment, they want to defy society and, in some cases, their own relatives.

French converts to Islam account for around a quarter of wearers, the newspaper said, quoting the reports.

Reuters, 29 July 2009