April 4, 2011

France’s burka ban could backfire

by Jan Harris

In France, a law banning women from covering their face with a veil will come into force on 11 April.

The law will stop Muslim women wearing the burka in public places, although they will be able to do so in their own homes, in hotel rooms and in a car as long as they are travelling as a passenger and not driving.

In June last year, France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said that the burka was a ‘sign of subservience’ and was not welcome.

He said: We cannot accept, in our country, women imprisoned behind a mesh, cut off from society, deprived of all identity.

“That is not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.’

However the ban has caused concern that it could lead to women becoming prisoners in their own homes and has been criticised for taking away freedom of choice.

There is also concern that it could further stigmatise Muslims living in France.

When the law comes into force, a woman who wears a burka in public could be fined 150 euros, while anyone who forces another person to wear one could be sent to prison for up to two years.

As France prepares for the ban to be enforced, the Police have been ordered not to arrest women wearing burkas near mosques.

Members of the public have been warned not to take the law into their own hands by trying to remove a woman’s veil themselves, but to call the police to deal with the matter.

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