Thursday, September 22, 2011

Frenchwomen Violate Nationwide Ban Against Wearing the Islamic Face Veil

Kenza Drider, a Frenchwoman who wears an Islamic face veil in violation of France's national ban against the practice, announced Thursday (September 22) that she wants to run for president in next year's elections. Also Thursday, a French court fined two women who have refused to remove their veils. All three women are part of a growing attack on the law that has banned the garments from the streets of France since April of this year, and prompted similar moves toward a ban in other European countries.

COMMENT: The three women are committed to proving that the French law inhibits a fundamental right and that women who wear the veil conceal their faces in order to stand for freedom, not submission. French President Nicolas Sarkozy strongly disagrees, and has asserted that the veil imprisons women.

Polls demonstrate that most French people support the ban, which authorities estimate affects fewer than 2,000 women who wore the veil before the ban. Violators of the law can be fined up to 150 euros as well as being ordered to attend mandatory citizenship classes.

The women are hoping for a conviction, so that they can take their case to France's highest court as well as the European Court of Human Rights.

With Islam the second religion in France, there are worries that veiled Muslim women could compromise the nation's secular foundations and undermine gender equality and women's dignity. There are also concerns that practices like wearing full veils could open the door to a radical form of Islam. Lawmakers banned Muslim headscarves in classrooms in 2004.

Belgium passed a similar face veil ban that took effect in July, and the Netherlands recently announced that it is drafting legislation to outlaw Muslim face veils. A draft law has already been approved in Italy.

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