Burka and Niqab Banned in France September 16, 2010

Burka and Niqab Banned in France

The French Senate voted 246-1 (with about 100 abstentions) on Tuesday to ban burkas and niqabs in public places.

In case you need a reminder

What will happen when the law goes into effect in the spring?

The law imposes a fine of 150 euros ($190) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa will be punishable by a year in prison or a 15,000-euro ($19,000) fine, the government said, calling it “a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil.”

The ban pertains to the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes. The hijab, which covers the hair and neck but not the face, and the chador, which covers the body but not the face, apparently are not banned by the law.

I’m not sure whether I like the new law or not. I weighed in on the issue a few months ago and it was a tough call to decide between civil liberties and oppressive clothing that could hinder security.

I’m still leaning toward the civil liberties side. If women want to wear the burka or niqab, let them. To paraphrase one commenter at Cynical-C Blog, the only thing worse than telling a woman she has to wear a burqa is telling her she can’t wear one at all.

Paul Sims points to a video of a Muslim woman explaining a possible loophole to the new law:

Sneaky. I’ll admit, I like the thought process there.

Do you support the new law?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Spurs Fan

    According to the details in the article, your post title seems to be incorrect. Perhaps it should say “Burka” instead of “Hijab”?

    (Hemant says: That was a word-typo. Fixed now. Thanks!

  • Canadiannalberta

    What’s wrong with the Hijab? You can see the whole face, and what’s next? No longer allowed to wear hair bandannas?

    EDIT: Read the rest of the post, and I agree with the person above me. I think you need to recheck the title, and replace Hijab with Burka.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    No, I don’t support the law. I think that the most important thing to do is give Muslim women more access to community and state resources so that they can improve their lot in life. Trying to dictate how they have to dress is not going to support that goal.

    Some women want to dress that way, and others are pressured to do so at home, but either way, bringing the resources of the state to bear against them for how they dress will only make many of them feel alienated from society.

    I’m also not convinced that this is a genuine effort on the part of the French government to improve women’s lives; rather, it is just another expression of “we don’t want your kind here” from French xenophobes. That’s what I suspect, anyway.

  • Alex

    Oh, please. It’s an ignorant premise to hide under “let women make their own choices.” Since women are typically the ones who perform female genital mutilation, should we endorse that cultural tradition?

  • phira

    I’ve got two cents.

    First cent: Going with the whole “A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews” philosophy, banning clothing that is pretty much only worn in the context of one religion is discriminating against people of that faith. That’s unethical, and in my opinion, it’s a violation of civil rights.

    Second cent: On atheist blogs, I keep hearing, “Islam/purdah oppress women!” On feminist blogs (which, by the way, tend towards freedom of and freedom from religion), I keep hearing, “Stop talking about us [Muslim women] as if we’re all victims who have no say in whether or not we engage in our own faith!”

    I wouldn’t choose to be Muslim, just like I wouldn’t choose to be Hindu or Christian. But I know plenty of people who would never, ever choose to be Jewish, which I am. But it’s condescending and unhelpful for non-Muslim people (not just men–many Western feminist women have yet to figure this out) to treat Muslim women like they’re prisoners or brainwashed victims. Do many of them contribute to their own subjugation? Well, yes, in the same way that I contribute to my own subjugation as a woman by wearing make-up and dresses.

    And for what it’s worth, I very often wish that I could wear some sort of covering. I’d feel less like a piece of meat when I walk to work.

  • Icaarus

    The only problem I have is right now the law seems very pointed. If it was ‘No person may wear any article of clothing or use any item to cover their face in such a way as to severely hinder any observer’s ability to identify the individual while that individual is in a public space’ or some other close approximation then the law becomes about everyone’s security and fraud prevention. This would remove religious arguments. Also it would make wearing medical masks illegal in public, which means the girl’s solution would be nixed as well.

    P.S. I would like to see the law in my area at some point

  • @Alex: *Sigh*. There’s a huge difference between wearing clothing and mutilating genitalia. HUGE difference.

    That video above is evidence that some women who wear niqabs and burqas actually want to, as part of their religion. WE might find it oppressive, but to them it’s usually just a cultural tradition.

    The majority can’t force its opinions on the minority. This is one of the biggest reasons why the U.S. Constitution ensures many of the freedoms it does: to protect the minority.

    Other than security concerns at banks, govt buildings, etc., I see nothing wrong with allowing fundamental Muslim women to wear whatever clothing they want.

    That medical mask gag would never work in an American bank, by the way. You have to show your face regardless of what you practice or believe.

  • Alex, I think you’ll find that there’s quite a difference between advocating mutilating people’s bodies, and saying that they can wear what they like.
    Also, there’s a big difference between underage girls having their genitals cut off by people of any gender(s), and an adult woman deciding, herself, what she herself wants to wear.

  • niqabs and burkas are the things that limit personal freedoms. i support the ban of the ban.

  • Tough call. On the one hand, if women are doing it of their own free will, to show their own devotion to their crazy sky god, so be it. If they’re wearing it because they’re being forced to from home-pressures… That’s a different matter.

    How you dress should have nothing to do with the government.

    (@Alex) Physical harm and clothing choice are two pretty different topics. It’s one thing if you’re choosing to wear something… The FGM is against another person, and should carry amazingly high penalties. Yes, they’re symptomatic of the same damn problem, but I think parallels can be drawn in damn near every major religion between minor idiocy (which is stupid but within rights) and serious problems (which should have all sorts of Bad Things happen to you for perpetrating).

  • Michael

    This is just another tool for radical muslims in far away lands (far away from France) to use as propaganda to illustrate how “the western world is an enemy to Islam.”

  • Little James

    Since women are typically the ones who perform female genital mutilation, should we endorse that cultural tradition?

    No, because mutilating someone does them harm. Wearing clothes is a victimless crime.

    And perhaps it’s a bad choice of words on your part, but “absence of a ban” does not equal “endorsement”. Being opposed to a ban on certain practices doesn’t mean you endorse those practices.

  • cathy

    A citizenship class. Way to make it super obvious, France, that the reason for this law is that you consider Muslim immigrants bad citizens.

    “Since women are typically the ones who perform female genital mutilation, should we endorse that cultural tradition?” Really Alex? You can’t see the difference at all between being the fashion police and not allowing people to do physical harm to OTHER people? Presumably, in any realistic view of the world, a muslim woman in France who chooses to wear the burka harms no one (with the possible exception of herself, but people should have rights over their own bodies). Also, if you paid any attention to the history of veil wearing disputes between european colonizers and the middle east, you will find that the veil and the motivations behind wearing it is not as simple as most westerners think. There are women who wear the veil specifically as a form of resistence against the history of european colonizers banning it. But hey, women don’t need to decide their own clothes and free expression, do they? Surely the white male dominated French government knows far more about what’s good for muslim women than muslim women do.

    Also, it is worth noting that in France, many nuns still wear habits. These are women, wearing a garment which covers the hair and often other parts of the head, for religious and modesty purposes in service of a corrupt, brutal, patriarichal religious sect, yet somehow, I don’t see panic over these women. Would you and the French government react the same way if these were white, western, christian women rather than immigrant descended, muslim, people of color?

  • keystothekid

    When I first heard about this law being proposed a few months ago, I thought it might of been a way for the French government to reach out a hand to poor oppressed Muslim women. However, it wasn’t hard to come to the conclusion that most of these women don’t feel oppressed by wearing burkas or niqabs, most of them feel great about doing it! Just because they’re women doesn’t mean they aren’t as ignorant and silly when it comes to believing in gods/things of this nature.

    Also, how much power SHOULD the government have? Sure, the police can step in during physical domestic abuse cases, but should we give them the power to manage such minutiae? At some point, people have to stick up for themselves or go find help sticking up for themselves. That might sound cold but it’s not always the governments responsibility.

  • Lasting change comes through changing peoples hearts, not banning their religious clothing. It is a terrible law, I wouldn’t want it imposed on me and I wouldn’t impose it on other people.

  • NSwise

    @Lost Left Coaster
    Muslim women are given ample access to “community and state ressources”.
    Since most of them do not work and are only “religiously” married (not LEGALLY), they benefit from the RMI (425.40euros for 1 person, and if you have kids it goes up, without limit), from the “Allocations familliales” (second kid on 119euros a month,3rd kid 271euros, over that 152 per kid) and from the “Allocation mere isolee” (lone mother-778euros for one kid+194euros per kid).
    According to the muslim religion a man can have several wives, and encourages procreation.

    In Villeurbanne a city near Lyon, there was an imam, religiously married to several wives, with whom he had like 20 kids. And he was getting something like 10.000 euros per month, thanks to all of us tax payers. Talk about a pimp!

    See, muslim women don’t need us to feel alienated from society. Society gives a lot to them. The problem is, their husbands abuse the system.
    This law is a first step towards the integration of muslim women into society.
    It is by hiding their faces and submitting to their husband’s will that they separate themselves from their fellow citizens.

    The government is not the bad guy here.
    It is a much needed step towards the integration of muslim women into secular french society.

  • Steve

    This stuff has nothing to do with religion. It’s purely cultural. As far as I know all the Quran says is that women should dress modestly. That is interpreted very differently throughout many countries.

    I have nothing against the hijab, but anything more is ridiculous.

  • Judith Bandsma

    I’m torn. Especially when I read that there are hospitals in the UK exempting muslim nurses and Sikh doctors from washing their hands due to ‘modesty’ concerns. I don’t care if you WANT to wear these things but enough is enough. I definitely don’t want your religion impinging on my physical health.


  • I don’t support the practice of wearing niqabs. I think it’s wrong to legislate against it though. The absurdity of it is made especially apparent by the woman in the medical mask. Inasmuch as you’re banning the wearing of a niqab but not the wearing of other clothing that cover the exact same amount of face, you’ve made a law that constitutes religious discrimination. I wouldn’t think the law was wrong though if the medical mask was also banned.

  • Cheryl

    Having worked in finance/banking, I support laws that ban anyone from wearing anything in public that covers any portion of the face; the exceptions only being glasses and bandages necessary to cover a recent wound.

    I do not agree any of these women have a choice. They are indoctrinated/brainwashed, most since childhood, to believe this is right. It is not. All of these are symbols of slavery and oppression.

  • I think there’s a huge difference between wearing a burka/niqab and FGM, namely that in 90%+ of cases, the women consent to wearing the burka/niqab (depending, of course, on your definition of consent), while the victims of FGM are typically young teens, which Western law does not recognize as able to consent to such conduct. If a 35-year-old woman wanted to have FGM performed on her, I would have no moral objection. I would want to have her psychologically examined first, but there’s no reason that she shouldn’t be able to consent to harm.

    Similarly, here, wearers of the burka and niqab are almost always adult women. When it doesn’t significantly impact my life (i.e. in situations where positive identification is necessary for the security of those involved), I see no reason to force anyone to wear or not wear particular clothing. I can certainly see making it a crime to threaten someone with violence for not wearing a burka or niqab, or otherwise requiring a person to wear a burka or niqab, but I don’t agree with a total ban.

    However, I don’t know French law and French culture. Many countries, even Western European countries, do not have the same freedom mindset that Americans do, and my American background and legal training likely is shaping my opinion.

  • I support France in this law, and think it’s ridiculous that anybody disagrees.

    This isn’t an issue about freedoms. This is an issue about a culture that devalues women and promotes them as lesser and as slaves.

    No woman wants to wear these things. They are simply raised to believe that they must. This practice should be stopped.

    You cannot be free when you’re raised from birth to believe that you are not.

  • Little James


    I’m torn. Especially when I read that there are hospitals in the UK exempting muslim nurses and Sikh doctors from washing their hands due to ‘modesty’ concerns.

    I agree that the exemption you mentioned is clearly absurd, but I fail to see how it can make you “torn” regarding the burka ban. Medical practitioners who willfully refuse to wash their hands are doing demonstrable harm to their patients. How does a woman in a burka harm you?

  • my concern is that some women will now be confined to their homes by the same men who made them wear the veils in the first place.

    but I support the ban. lesser of two evils I think.

  • Staceyjw

    Actually, a citizenship class is a great idea. It is important to the French that immigrants assimilate and understand the principles that the country is based on, what better way to teach them? and yes, I think that the people fighting for burkas ARE being bad citizens. citizenship is a privilege for an immigrant, not a right.

    If these women love their burkas and Traditional culture more than the culture they immigrated into, they should go back to where Sharia rules.Immigration is a CHOICE. You don’t get to change the place you immigrate to, YOU change, thats how it works. I just don’t understand why Muslims that fight for their sharia even want to live amongst infidels- they want the prosperity, jobs, healthcare, technology and welfare benefits, but don’t want the culture? they need to learn why western nations are ahead, and why living like it’s the 7th century keeps countries behind. You cant have it both ways!

    I am for the ban, and reading Ayaan Hirsi Alis books have shown me why it’s important for Muslim immigrants to learn about enlightenment ideals that are the reason for western success.

  • Angela

    I’m actually in France right now, and for the next three months, so it’ll be interesting to see how this whole thing plays out. I actually hadn’t heard about it until I just read this post, but I wonder if there will be more upset about it in upcoming weeks.

    As far as my opinion on it, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ban head or face coverings at a workplace or school setting if all other face coverings are banned as well. But as much as I consider myself a bit of an extremist atheist, I think it’s totally inappropriate to dictate what people wear when they’re doing their own thing.

    Burkas and niqabs are a symptom of a problem, not a problem themselves. I think the ban is a terrible idea, if only because legally preventing people from practicing their religion makes us nonreligious people look bad.

  • “Do you support the new law?”

    No. No government should have the authority to dictate what type of clothing you wear.

    Their law is about xenophobia, not about protecting women. But even if it were about protecting the women, you don’t fix a problem (domestic abuse) by attacking the symptom (the clothes), you fix a problem by attacking the problem.

  • Little James


    This isn’t an issue about freedoms. This is an issue about a culture that devalues women and promotes them as lesser and as slaves.

    I don’t understand, are there any signs that this culture will be somehow impeded by legislating women’s clothing choices?

    You cannot be free when you’re raised from birth to believe that you are not.

    Agreed. If you’re raised from birth to believe you’re not free, it won’t matter whether you’re prevented from wearing a burka or not.

  • I believe that the biggest outcome of the law will be that women who wear these articles of clothing will stay at home rather than go out in public without them (or because their male family members refuse to let them out without them).

    I remember when French schools banned headscarves in 2004; the consequence was that many Muslims girls were forced to stay at home by their families. What’s more important to the French government, secularism or that these girls and women receive an education?

    Some commenters argue that no women wear these articles by choice (if they want to wear them it’s because they were raised to want to). Even if this is true, if these women are forced (or choose) to stay at home they may never be exposed to alternative mindsets and worldviews that might help them shrug off this oppression.

    While I support the idea of fining those who would force women to wear the niqab or burka, I do not believe that a reasonable person would honestly think that this law will do more good than harm. Xenophobia must be playing a role.

  • fastthumbs

    Somehow, this reminds me of the “haircut” restrictions against long hair of the 1960’s/1970’s.

    I see this as an attempt by French Islamicphobes\racists to discriminate against the Moslems\browns hiding under a “women’s rights” banner. As an earlier poster stated, why aren’t they also banning nuns from wearing habits (because they are Christian and white…)?

  • If women want to wear the burka or niqab, let them.

    And if they don’t want to?

  • Anonymous

    Yes. The clothing is oppressive to women and reinforces ideas of women as objects and chattel. Just because the women don’t recognize it doesn’t mean it isn’t true (see Stockholm Syndrome, child brides in polygamous marriages, learned helplessness in abusive relationships). The ban draws a line in the sand against that patriarchal oppression. The state must step in where the religious leaders fail to respect women as human. I don’t agree that it’s condescending to the women as stated above. That argument makes light of how powerful conditioning can be.

    (I am a liberal female)

  • Hitch

    The law against forced wearing is good. The law against voluntary wearing is bad.

  • Richard Wade

    The law imposes a fine of 150 euros ($190) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa will be punishable by a year in prison or a 15,000-euro ($19,000) fine, the government said, calling it “a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil.”

    So… The republic will force people to be free? Or at least force them to appear to be free according to what the republic says is freedom?

    Lunacy piled upon lunacy.

    If they just left the second part of this law prohibiting anyone from forcing a woman to wear these asinine things, it would make a lot more sense.

  • Although I think that the burkha and niqab are symbols of oppression, I think a ban’s the wrong way to go about it. There’s no real security issue (though I’d object to them being worn in airports, for example), after all, and my friends in the Muslim community tell me that when this has been enacted before (i.e. in Syria, Turkey, etc.) there’s been a public backlash with women wearing it in defiance – even women who previously wouldn’t even consider it. It’s the same issue as with censorship and drug laws – make something illegal, and all you’re doing is drawing attention to it.

  • Alex

    Wearing clothes is a victimless crime, eh? I see most of you have NOT questioned cultural relativism especially the idiot on Facebook saying feminists have reclaimed the burqa. Let’s not forget that one can be modest without sacrificing movement, personal safety, and identity, and that these garments are really a part of a tradition that conceals women over men’s alleged lack of self-control.

    For those of you who did not understand my comparison to female genital mutilation, were you then NOT part of the public outcry when the American Pediatric Association endorsed physicians giving toddler girl’s clitoris a small cut to appease cultural sensitivity? One is physical harm, the other psychological. I agree with Anonymous liberal woman that little consideration here is given to conditioning, that it’s not patronizing to suggest women do not wear these for the right reasons even if that’s their own. It’s not suggesting the women are weaker because the men believe the same thing. This angers me as much as the atheist solution to the Koran burning to pay for actual replacements. There’s no printing shortage. You want to be kind without having perspective.

  • The law is a blunt instrument here. Legislators know how to legislate. In a very real sense, that’s all they know how to do. When you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    That said, there is a not-altogether-unreasonable argument for banning face-coverings on public safety grounds. So color me undecided on this issue.

  • I support France in this law, and think it’s ridiculous that anybody disagrees.

    I think it is ridiculous that you agree with the law simply because it is aimed at something with which you disagree. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    This isn’t an issue about freedoms. This is an issue about a culture that devalues women and promotes them as lesser and as slaves.

    Fair enough but laws ought to apply equally to everyone regardless of religious convictions. Let’s say we’re faced with the problem that the hypothetophite culture murders their first-born children when they reach the age of five. Do we make it against the law for hypothetophites to murder children? No! We make it against the law for ANYONE to murder children.

    No woman wants to wear these things. They are simply raised to believe that they must. This practice should be stopped.

    That makes no sense. Believing you want something is the same as wanting something. While your upbringing certainly plays a major part in what will eventually be your likes and dislikes, your likes and dislikes are still just that. Unless, of course, you want to argue that everything we ever wanted and will ever want has a causal component and therefore none of us really wants anything but just think we do. At least then your stance would be consistent – albeit patently absurd.

  • Judith Bandsma

    Little James…I’m torn because I don’t want to be told what to wear. If I believe what I’m wearing is necessary to any part of my well-being (including emotional or ‘spiritual’), no matter how misguided I really think it is, then I’m going to rebel. And I’ll probably tell you it’s what I want to do.

    As to being trained to believe this what you have to wear…not in all cases. Some time ago we had some Tanzanian Girl Scouts visiting. One of them was Muslim and, while she wore secular clothes while here, she explained that she had to wear the chador and hijab at home due to the threats not against her but against her parents if she didn’t.

  • popvox

    Immigration is a CHOICE. You don’t get to change the place you immigrate to, YOU change, thats how it works.

    What about the native-born French Muslims? Did they get to choose where they were born? Citizenship is a construct, as is the nation/state. What did you do to deserve citizenship where you were born? A naturalized immigrant has probably learned and retained more about his/her new country’s government than five average native-born university students put together. I appreciate being born in America, but when people talk about illegal immigration I wonder why they’re spouting oxymorons.

    I think the reasons behind the use of the burka and niqab are misguided at best, reprehensible at worst, but I can imagine a conservative Muslim family’s patriarchal structure (or the local imam) simply forbidding the women to go out in public at all. How will they successfully assimilate, maybe even liberalize, kept inside their homes? The women who have internalized it most will probably even think their confinement a good move.

  • Woody Woodpecker

    The problem is not the burqa, the problem is the massive immigration of muslims to the old continent, which is unfortunately changing the local demographics. I partially agree with Staceyjw, if they like their “traditions” so much, then they should remain in Shariahland where they would be “free” to wear it. (actually, they would have no other option).

  • muggle

    For it for security reasons (please, anyone could be under that tent, including someone with a very scary weapon) but, as others have said — even though it would still be obvious what it was aimed at — the law should just read as a ban against covering the face and any clothing loose and big enough to conceal a weapon of a certain size.

    Wear the damned thing all you want at home and the mosque but don’t endanger my welfare in public. We can pretend we aren’t living in an age of terrorism but it doesn’t change the fact that we are. If you have to walk through metal detectors at the airport, why shouldn’t you have to show your face in public? At least to some degree to maintain public safety. As for the mask, if it’s medically necessary, issue some kind of card for the wallet or like the ID cards almost everyone has to wear at work to access the office building they work in these days, like the handicapped plaque I have so my daughter can park in the handicapped spots when driving me some place.

  • muggle

    Oh, and I’d also agree that while it’s okay to have your traditions and so many immigrants bringing theirs with them have given us a great diverse culture with lots of great benefits from wonderful take-out to street festivals, etc., if you want to impose that culture on everyone around you and basically change the country you’re emigrating into the one you left, just freaking stay in your backwards country to begin with, okay?

  • Edmond

    And what about Halloween? Is the law rescinded for that one day? They DO celebrate it in France.

    Seems to me that people should be free to walk around wearing whatever they want. If it’s an issue of security, then just make it a regulation that must be followed in high-risk areas, like airports.

  • Darlingtonia

    @Alex: Unless one is wearing clothing that is directly threatening violence against someone, then it is not criminal. It may be offensive to you or to me to see someone wearing a burqa, but they still have the right to do so, just as I have the right to adorn my clothes with swastikas and deny the holocaust. I may think those are foolish actions, but I’ll be damned if someone were to prohibit them. (Although I suppose, as an atheist, I’m already damned.)

    The burqa very well may be a symbol of oppression, but while I may pity a woman who is wearing it, the proper response is not to ban it’s use but to persuade her not to wear it (possibly through education) and provide the tools for her to achieve that. (Setting aside the implicit assumptions that she needs more education and lacks tools.) As others have pointed out, the part of the law that prohibits the wearing is only treating a symptom rather than the disease (of oppression) itself, and may have unintended negative side effects. I am sure that French tax dollars could be much better spent in providing social services than in enforcing this ban.

    And yes, your comparison with genital mutilation still misses the mark because that is a case where a woman (possibly a member of the APA) is making a choice that causes direct physical harm to another person, rather than making a choice for herself that she does not view as harmful. That is why the section of the law prohibiting the forcing of a women to wear a burqa is acceptable (although I imagine it would be incredibly difficult to prosecute).

    @Andy: You don’t need to stay undecided. If the legislators implemented this on public safety grounds they should have explicitly stated that and implemented a blanket ban on any type of face covering (which would probably also be a bad law), but it sounds like they were particularly focused on the burqa and niqab.

  • this is hard, but “no.” i don’t support any law that tells a woman, but not a man, what she can or cannot wear.

    niquab/hijab/mime outfit/catholic garb: i support a woman’s right to choose what she wears. including my atheist sexy kitten mid-drift exposing bumblebee striped daisy dukes that i wear at Pride. and also: some sheet. nasty thin heels. chunky ones. the ball and gag. some Bible based outfit. whatever.

    telling women what they can an cannot wear: wrong. esp when men aren’t told something similar. “sumptuary” laws are stupid and based on religious ideology. we’re atheists/agnostics. we reject that shit.

  • NSwise

    Chicago Dyke, believe me, if men were required by their religion to wear a sackcloth on their head, the law would require them to take it off as well.
    Case in point, there are discussion going on to outlaw the jewish kippa in public schools.
    See, men have it tough too.

    Sex has nothing to do with all that.
    Religion is what it’s all about.

  • Haley

    I really don’t support this law. It seems to be very obviously discriminatory towards one religion in particular. If the law had said that your face can’t be covered in any way in public, that would be acceptable, but this obviously only affects Muslims, and I can’t think of a single reason why this is justified.

    If they’re trying to protect Muslim women who are forced to do wear these in public…well, if their husbands have no problem forcing them to wear the things in the first place, I don’t see why they would have a problem with simply not allowing them out in public. And really, it is likely that there are Muslim women who voluntarily wear these things. You could say that they only want to because they were raised that way, but that argument can’t apply only to clothing associated with religion. Even if this sounds silly, think about it: the only reason you wear clothing at all is because you were raised that way, through your parents and your culture. There are places in the world where people either can’t afford clothing or simply don’t wear it. You were probably also raised to wear enough clothing in public that certain parts of you are covered. So you probably do wear clothing in public, and it probably covers the essential areas (for most people who will be reading this, at least, I assume). Does this mean you were brainwashed? Still, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the women who want to wear the burkas and niqabs and the women who are forced to, and you can’t very well spend government time and money on investigating which women want to and which women don’t–and besides, talk about Big Brother.

    I suppose in theory they could be a security threat simply because of how loose they are, but anyone can wear loose clothes and hide things in them. And if they’re concerned about immigration, why don’t they make laws limiting immigration instead of purposely trying to discriminate against one group of immigrants? (By the way, saying that they should leave if they don’t like the law sounds an awful lot like a certain American group who say “One nation under God–if you don’t like it, then leave”).

  • penn

    I only think this is a civil liberty issue because they banned it in all public areas. I would be fine with it if they banned it in government buildings and such (apparently that’s what the Socialist party wanted). I can’t walk into a federal building or bank with a ski mask on, and I don’t think one’s religion should give them special rights. But, I can walk around in the streets with my faced covered and I don’t think one’s reason for doing so should matter at all.

    I do think it’s silly to say the only thing worse than forcing someone to wear a specific garment is to tell them they can’t. If I force you to wear something then I’ve completely restricted your self expression in terms of clothing. If I tell you that you can’t wear one thing then I’ve restricted your expression from nearly infinite choices to nearly infinite minus one.

  • I heard a story on NPR about about a Muslim organization that will be raising funds to pay for fines imposed on burqa-wearing women. Sounds like another nice workaround.

  • NSwise


    Actually the law says nothing about the burqa.
    It says that the face of an individual must remain visible in public areas. That’s all. No mention of religion of the burqa in the text.

    Here it is:

    “nul ne peut dans l’espace public porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage” sous peine d’encourir une amende de 150 euros ou “à titre de peine alternative ou complémentaire un stage de citoyenneté”.

    Which translates like this with google :
    “No one in public wear clothing designed to hide his face” on pain of incurring a fine of 150 euros or “as a sentencing alternative or complement a course of citizenship.”

  • Haley

    Well, in that case, NSwise, I suppose that the wording of the law itself is okay after all. Still, the reason for the law and the intent of the law are questionable. Have there been many public safety issues involving face coverings lately? If there have, then I would probably change my mind and support it. Or was the law only proposed once the number of Muslim immigrants began to grow?

  • NSwise

    There is a whole context to this.
    Recently there’s been demands from muslim women to have pools open on certain days for them only because they don’t want to swim where other people can see them. Some refuse to be touched by male doctors etc…In France, more and more fast food make all their meat meals Hallal in order not to repel the muslim clientele and so on.
    For outsiders, this law seems like a nonsense, one might admit.
    But for french people, it’s also a fight to preserve part of their secular identity I think.
    I don’t know if you’ve seen this video of a muslim prayer in the middle of the street in Paris(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNIKz9b8FAA), but it’s also because that kind of stuff is happening that this law was voted.
    In a sense, the cup is full. And so it is also to appease the people that this law was made.

  • Haley

    All of that does give a good point: France obviously has a different government and different issues to deal with. From an American perspective, those examples you gave seem to be personal or business choices that they have every right to make (with the exception of the street prayer and any situations of a similar caliber). Even putting aside my American perspective, though, it doesn’t seem like the burkas or niqabs themselves are the problem that needs to be fixed, and by making that law or being among the crowd demanding it, it still seems to be symbolically striking out against Muslims in France rather than doing anything productive besides appeasement.

  • L. Foster

    I don’t agree with the law any more than I agree with one that criminalizes human trafficking victims for prostitution. It’s criminalizing the women who wear the burqa or niqab; not those who threaten them with violence if they do not wear them. It’s grossly misplaced.

  • NSwise

    So yea the text doesn’t mention muslims, but it’s somewhat hypocritical.
    If I remember well, what triggered it all was that sotry about a woman back in april who was driving a car, with her burqa on. The police fined her 22 euros for the reason “driving in cumbersome apparel”.
    The lady outraged tried to plead her case in court, racial discrimination and all, but it only helped the policemen and the judges to figure out that she and her “husband” were actually stealing money from the state.
    She was one of his 4 wives, and was getting money as a “lone parent”(778 euros for one kid+194euros per kid multiply that by 4 wives.).

    Story cut short: the government used this to promote the ban.
    So yea, the french people are quite fed up about this all. Enough anyway to let the law on the burqa pass.

  • NSwise

    You’re perfectly right.
    It’s only crowd control.

  • cathy

    Here’s the summary of the pro-ban arguments:

    1. Brown people from poor countries are ruining western (read white) culture! Let’s ignore that population movements always change culture (pizza and St. Pats day are also DESTROYING american culture with their immigrant ways!) Also, Panda Express is of the Devil.

    2. In order to fight the patriarchy, the best strategy is to have powerful, wealthy white men use the legal system to dictate what clothes poor brown women have to wear. Yeah, that makes sense. White men always know the desires and well being of women of color better than they know it themselves. Duh. Dumb womens.

    3. It’s unsafe!! Ignore the ways that women who veil in the west actually deal with securtiy protocols safely (information that is easy to find via the internet).

    4. Brown people have too many babies and suck tax money!!! Also, brown kids never need money to actually live on, so any benefits they get are pure profit.

    5. If muslim women are given rights, X horrible thing that happens all the time in the US will happen, and the world will end (seriously, there is a good body of tort law on religious refusal of male doctors by christian women, particularly Jehovah’s witnesses)

  • Seti

    Personally, I am in favour of this. There are security and safety reasons, for one thing. Driving in a burqa sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

    Cathy: In other words, “Anyone who disagrees with me is racist, because I say so!” Honestly, grow up.

    By the way…
    “The only thing worse than telling a woman she has to wear a burqa is telling her she can’t wear one at all”
    Nonsense. Total nonsense. Being told you can wear anything but a burqa is a world better than being told you cannot wear anything but a burqua.

  • Demonhype

    I was pleasantly surprised to see a considerably heftier consequence for those forcing anyone to wear a burka or niquab. I was unaware that there was anything to this other than criminalizing a behavior that is not only brainwashed but could also be enforced by domestic violence.

    Not that that fixes everything. But it was a surprise in the right direction, at least.

    It seems to me that outlawing facial coverings while allowing a religious exemption would be religious discrimination, kind of like those people who get off the hook for killing their kids because their religion only accepts faith-healing, when if I let my kid die because I just don’t like doctors I’d be in jail. And no, I don’t consider the fact that one regulates physical harm and the other regulates clothing choice to be terribly important. I’m talking about religious exemption for rule of law. If you outlaw something, it needs to apply to everyone and no amount of “my invisible friend who lives in the sky told me not to” should get you off the hook.

    It does seem a security issue too, and not only for the general society. Imagine–you’ve got all these people running around in burkas. They could be anyone. Literally anyone. What a fantastic cover and smokescreen for someone pulling some kind of crime–a robbery, a bombing, or anything like that. It could even be a great way for some anti-Muslim radical to stir up hatred against the Muslim populace, committing a crime that is likely to be blamed on Muslims because someone in a burka was caught on camera committing the crime. And how would you be able to tell if it was a Muslim woman or someone else using it as a cover, much less identify the person?

    Kind of like those douchebag Christians who occasionally like to pretend to be atheists and then start spewing about how much they love raping people–until someone hunts down their IP address and outs them as a pastor. This, however, would be far more serious than a simple asshole on the internet abusing the anonymity the medium brings.

    And I can see how the situation is somewhat different in Europe. It’s not like Muslims are just living in their areas not bothering anyone. It sounds like they’re making a lot of audacious demands for constant appeasement and special rights, and I’ve even heard of some areas where they want the right to institute Sharia law. So I’d have to say with some others–if you love Sharia law so much, get the hell out of the West and go where Sharia law is in effect. And I don’t care if you moved to the West yourself or were born here.

    It’s kind of like this: I live in the country with my folks for now. I hate living in the country. And yet I still voted against an effort to start planting strip malls and other such local business development. Why? I hate living in the country and I am not here by choice, but that doesn’t mean I burn down the woods to build a new city right here. It means I make every effort to move away from the woods so I can live in a city that exists already, where I can be happy.

    I never could stand people who move to an area and then demand that the original inhabitants change for them and make all manner of insane appeasements, when there are places they could be–or have just left–that are exactly like what they are trying to force on their new town. If we’re talking about something like basic equality and tolerance, fine, but this is more along the lines of “I moved here for the benefits, but I still want to be surrounded by an environment like the one I left, and you owe it to me to appease that wish while I do everything in my power to avoid absorbing any of your filthy culture.” It’s particularly annoying and insulting when the new person originally hails from a country where freedom is anathema and the very lifestyle they favor is enforced by the edge of a sword. If you liked that sort of life so much and it’s so important to you, you should have stayed there. If you want to live here, there’s a certain basic minimum to which you will need to assimilate, which is no more than what I could reasonably be expected to do if I was to move to another country.

    You think that’s tough? If I moved to your country, I would be flogged for wearing pants, much less not wearing a burka, which goes way beyond the expectation of a basic amount of national assimilation that is requested of you.

  • ihedenius

    About muslin women & public pools. In Sweden women have demanded & won (IIRC) the right to be topless. Reasoning if men don’t have to why should they. I’m a guy and avoiding a dozen juvenile responses I think they have a point.

    The french law will be contraproductive. Being ‘opressed’ will strengthen muslim cohesion.

  • Haley:

    Actually the law says nothing about the burqa.
    It says that the face of an individual must remain visible in public areas. That’s all. No mention of religion of the burqa in the text.

    Here it is:

    “nul ne peut dans l’espace public porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage” sous peine d’encourir une amende de 150 euros ou “à titre de peine alternative ou complémentaire un stage de citoyenneté”.

    Which translates like this with google :
    “No one in public wear clothing designed to hide his face” on pain of incurring a fine of 150 euros or “as a sentencing alternative or complement a course of citizenship.”

    I am puzzled by this. If this is what the law says how could wearing a medical mask be a loophole in any way?

    In any case, I retract my previous opposition to the law. If the law specifies that no one can wear any kind of garment covering the face, there is nothing discriminatory about that. However, it would make cold winters and Halloween celebrations rather problematic.

  • Nakor

    €150 is one hell of a fine for wearing a face covering. That’s nearly twice the fine for driving as much as 20km/h over the speed limit here, if I’m not mistaken.

  • Adam

    I do not fully agree with the law as they should have the right to wear want they want but they should have to take them off in public/goverment buildings and shops should have the choice to ban them or not, which makes it the same as helmets and i have to take mine off everywhere i go because if i do anything then they will know my face and some physcholgy idea about seeing someones face instills trust.

  • Arachobia

    This is kind of completely ignoring the problem at the core.

    Islam Leaders: Islam women should not dress provocatively

    French Leaders: How dare you tell women what to wear! We will fine women who wear what you tell them to, to encourage them to wear clothing we find suitable.

    So one oppressive patriarchy is fighting another for its right to be an oppressive patriarchy. Only the women suffer.

    As mentioned above, women who follow Islam will probably not feel oppressed by the laws of Islam which non-believers find so oppressive. If the French government wants to help, they should challenge the tenants of Islam that lead to women wearing the clothes being taught at all, not punishing those who follow the tenants.

  • confused


    fakeistan just made a law banning any women’s clothing that exposed skin below the neck.
    They have made this ban in response to the overly sexual clothing styles flooding in from the west. It is a security concern as such clothing distracts security personnel as well as inviting sexual predators to lust over these women, potentially tripling the amount of sexual assaults in the country.
    These women obviously don’t WANT to wear clothes that objectify them and reduce them to nothing more than symbols of lust, sex, and carnal desires, they’ve simply been brainwashed by their culture to THINK they want to wear those clothes.

    How many of you supporting this ban would support that ban too?

  • GSW

    Icaarus said: ‘No person may wear any article of clothing or use any item to cover their face in such a way as to severely hinder any observer’s ability to identify the individual while that individual is in a public space’

    Actually French lawyers have already pointed this out and I believe they are rephrasing. Please take into consideration that any civil law that is in opposition to islamic law, will offend muslims whether they are actually mentioned or not.

    As I have already stated (lots), this law will give back to people the right to demand to see the face of employees, people entering their shops, interviewees, patients, dole-receivers, etc. Bank clerks and security men will once again be able to refuse entrance to masked apparitions!

    It empowers the rest of us at the cost of a few hundred/thousand political ideologists.

  • GSW

    When you move to the big city, please take your cat. I am rooting for you as the new Mayor of London!
    Whoops, “I would be flogged for wearing pants” do I mean Mayor of New York?

    Shame, the UK could use more people like you.

  • jose

    “Since women are typically the ones who perform female genital mutilation, should we endorse that cultural tradition?”

    Women do that to someone else. Frequently they’re little girls who don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen to them. If a grown up, well informed woman wants to do that to herself, then whatever. That would be a valid analogy.

    “If this is what the law says how could wearing a medical mask be a loophole in any way?”

    It couldn’t. She probably hasn’t read the law.

  • NSwise

    Nope, it IS a loophole, because the text says it is forbidden to hide your face, “unless medical conditions require you to do it”.
    So you can say you have a cold and don’t want to give it to other people and voila.

  • So a Muslim woman has a number of options if she wants to wear a full veil.

    1. Leave or don’t go to France.
    2. Stay indoors.
    3. Break the law.

    Judging our French cousins by their reputation I really hope that they organise to break the law. In Paris. On a busy Saturday. Outside the Palais de l’ Elysées. They could take a short march from the Champs-Élysées. If they did it in the veils and nothing else then that would be truly French.

    Vive la Différence!

    I’ll join them in a Mickey Mouse mask.

    “No one in public wear clothing designed to hide his face” on pain of incurring a fine of 150 euros or “as a sentencing alternative or complement a course of citizenship.”

    There you go then. A veil in the niqab or the burka is designed to do something else other than hide the face. Call it “expressing a religious viewpoint” or “preserving modesty” or whatever as long as the reason is not to hide the face then there are grounds for appeal. The fact that the face is hidden is secondary. i.e. A scarf is designed to keep the neck warm, not to hide the neck.

  • Phoenix

    We don’t allow Neo Nazi’s to parade around our streets wearing their uniforms of terror, there is absolutely no difference between Neo Nazism and muhammadism, it is a fact that muhammadism calls for the destruction and murder of jews in the country of Palestine, I don’t recognise Israel but I don’t believe murdering jews is acceptable no matter how totally wrong they are, the burqa is a symbol of terror, no different to a swastika..

  • CatBallou

    I abhor these coverings and their only real function is to control women, but I’m not sure a legal ban is the best approach. So I’m just going to throw out a couple of ideas. First, as has already been mentioned, there is a public-safety interest in being able to see people’s faces. It’s not just in banks and government buildings in the U.S., either. Several times, friends of mine in Halloween masks have been required to remove them in places such as shopping malls and restaurants.
    Second, seeing each other and acknowledging each other as civic equals is an essential part of a free and democratic society. A face covering automatically sets people apart. I would not willingly interact with anyone who doesn’t treat me as an equal. (For example, I wouldn’t do business with a man who wouldn’t shake hands with me because he doesn’t touch non-related women.) I’m not sure there should be a legal ramification here, but it’s still vitally important to a democracy.
    Finally, and perhaps I’m giving the French government too much credit here, but banning face coverings is possibly the only way many women could be free of them. As long as it’s presented as a choice, many women will be pressured, if not forced, to choose the veil. (And let’s not imagine that force would be easy to prove: The woman would have to bring the charge or at least corroborate, and that would destroy the marriage, which would certainly discourage women from complaining. When women still find it incredibly difficult to bring charges of rape or battery against their husbands, a charge of this nature will remain extremely rare.) But if a woman can say “I’d like to wear a veil but I have to do the shopping, etc.” she doesn’t have to rebel against her menfolk in order to give up the veil. Yes, some women may just be kept inside, but I doubt that this will be practical for most families.
    Despite the assertions by some posters that changing “hearts” should come before behavior, research in human psychology indicates that it’s easier the other way around. Change the law, change the behavior, and the attitudes follow. Imagine what the state of civil rights would be in the U.S. if we had to wait until everyone was “comfortable” with the notion! Instead, people’s opinions tend to conform to their behaviors.

  • if a bunch of mostly African American legislators happened to pass a law in this country that said “all white women under 25 must wear daisy dukes,” would you all be ok with that? probably not. it’s an extreme polemic, but i’m trying to drop the mind frame some families are going to have about this. practically, this law affects the muslim community. i don’t care how broadly it’s worded, and anyway, why are we all so excited to show our faces to the state and security forces? i’d like the option of being private sometimes too.

    there are lots of reasons a woman may want to cover parts of her head. taking away that right isn’t something i can applaud, no matter what the “benefit.” too many people are buying into the security theatre nonsense. big brother isn’t making us safer, it’s making us less safe. and the first riot or fight that breaks out over this in france will probably only be used to take more rights away. mark my words.

    if france were serious about elevating islamic women it would do more for the poorest in that community instead of blaming them for the roosting chickens of its post-colonial heritage.

  • Sean

    Roosting chickens is right. Seems more than a bit absurd for the French to complain about foreigners coming to their land and imposing their values!!
    That being said, I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other about the ban. I think ridicule is a better weapon against religion than legal compulsion.

  • DH405

    I have a couple conflicting(ish) ideas on this.

    1. These clothing articles should NOT be banned on a religious basis. Period. If you want to ban the burka because you hate Muslims, then you’re in the wrong.

    2. So long as I have display my face for security reasons, so should everyone else. You can’t have an exception. Unless I can walk down the street or go to the store wearing a balaclava, you cannot do so in a burqa or niqab.

  • Atom Jack

    I didn’t see any mention of the irony contained in the statement that the medical mask would “protect her health”- besides the obvious germ stopping power, she’ll be obeying the muslim dictum to hide her face- and not getting flogged for exposing it. Pathetic. I’m on the side that says:
    1. Wear it only if you want to, but
    2. You may not wear it in situations requiring basic physical security of the people around you.
    Fair? Not always. Life’s like that.

  • Alex

    Confused, in your little example you’ve done the same thing as making the women wear the burqa – controlling women over men who allegedly cannot control themselves.

    A round of applause to CatBallou – really, you don’t want to ban the BURQA because it will restrict women, since some families might leave them at home? Please! Some white people might crowd out black people who want to use water fountains if everyone has to share. Blah blah. I used to work a second job at an upscale boutique and saw a lot of wealthy Arab customers. The husband would look like any other American, shorts, t-shirt, sandals, whatever, but his wife would have on the hijab, a turtleneck underneath one or two other shirts, long pants and sometimes a skirt over those pants, even during summer heat waves. Believe me, Muslim women accomodate. It’s foolish to think there’s no alternative to not wearing a burqa.

  • Brian Westley

    We don’t allow Neo Nazi’s to parade around our streets wearing their uniforms of terror

    Where I live (the USA), we do. They can even hold literal parades.

    I’m against this law; if a new administration comes in that wants to mandate that all women cover their faces in public, there will be no recourse, since it’s already established that the government has the power to tell people how they can and cannot dress. Laws specifically against concealing your identity for security reasons in specific places would be OK, but that’s not the case here.

  • Laura

    The best way to give women freedom to choose what they wear is to enact a law telling them what they can’t wear. Wait, what?

  • michelle

    I do not agree with the ban. It violates the rights of women who voluntarily choose to wear the Burka and Niqab as an expression of a religion in which they choose to participate. I also put forth that it will probably do very little to help those women who are now forced to wear them against their inclination. Their oppressors will now simply refuse to let them go into public. In essence, the ban does nothing but further limit the freedoms of all Muslim women.

  • nobodyimportant

    I come from a far advanced culture from you, and I tell you that requiring women to cover their breasts is an unacceptable degradation of human freedom and dignity. You must forbid women from covering their breasts immediately. All women must go out showing their breasts.

    Still support this law?

  • Can I wear a mask in public? (male and non-muslim.)

    If France wants to outlaw facial concealment then more power to them.

    If they want to outlaw specific garments worn solely by one creed then they are engaging in discrimination.

  • SeekerLancer

    Do I support the law? No. I don’t care what they do and who am I to discriminate?

    Do I think burkas are stupid? Yes. But it’s none of my business, is it?

  • Elizabeth

    I think it’s sad that some women feel the need to wear things like burkas, but by all means, let them. If we deny them their right to wear what they want, then we’re hypocrites.

    I don’t live in France, but if I did, I would probably be wearing a burka right now, regardless of my religious beliefs (well, lack thereof) in protest.

  • Euan

    I don’t support the law. I can wear a balaclava if it’s warranted with impunity, banning something for cultural or religious reasons is wrong.

    If they’re going after Burkas then they should in fairness go after every form of dress that’s linked to religion. Not acceptable.

  • JM

    Sometimes an outside force needs to step in to tell people what to do. We intervene when some Christians keep their children away from lifesaving medical treatments or when they try to marry more than one woman (or a child). We ban smoking in public places to protect secondhand inhalation. We don’t let anyone under 21 drink.

    What this is not is a French attack on Muslim headcoverings. I don’t believe the burqa is as common in France as some of you think. I support this law against public facecovering 100% regardless of whether or not it’s motivated by religious intolerance or xenophobia.

    Is it the woman’s “choice”? Supposedly. (Look at all the complicit conservative women who want abortion banned without exceptions for the mother’s health even if she ends up dying like my next door neighbor’s daughter of congestive heart failure after pregnancy at 32.) But you’re giving too much leeway. Let’s support child marriages because it’s their culture. Let’s support the death penalty for adultery because it’s their culture. Let’s not push for their daughters to be educated because it’s their culture. OR let’s force liberation in a contrary fashion by restricting that which restricts them. Why not?

  • mslove

    I think they shouldnt band the hijab because at least let them have some religiouse on them, everyone has a rite

  • Lex

    Part of me really loves the idea of this new law. However, my logical side I don’t really agree with the law as I feel it is an imposition on an individuals freedom. That is, if the person that chooses to wear the niqab or burqa are consenting adults who choose wear these thing.

    But then the question comes up. Is it freedom to know no other life than a life of wear niqab or burqa? This should be the core of the debate, the choice to do so, not the imposition or force to wear these things. For instance, do parents ask their daughter if they would like to wear niqab or burqa, or is it imposed on they by their parents? If they were an adult and consented to wear niqab or burqa, that is one thing. But, when does the choice come in?

    The problem is that parents can dictate the life of their child, till they reach a certain age. But, once a parent imposes these type of religious ideologies on their child, it would be no different than brainwashing.

    The issue for me is I am glad that France had the balls to at least push for some more progressive attitudes in how Muslims should perceive women in the real world. However, I do feel that the law is bit extreme and it does force the issue on women. It essentially the same oppressiveness that forces a woman into the niqab or burqa in the first place.

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