Monday, June 22, 2009

New Bans in France

In 2004, France passed a controversial law
banning students from wearing any clothing or jewelry with religious affiliation in public schools. This law attempted to end religious segregation, but resulted in riots and bitter resentment, especially from the large Muslim community in France. The ban later gained popularity in the news as the "headscarf ban,"as it stopped Muslim girls from wearing headscarves to public schools.

This morning, Monday June 22, President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke in front of legislators attempting to ban Burqas (the full length garments that many devout Muslim women wear) in France. Sarkozy has explained that Burqas are a symbol of oppression, and Reuters has reported Sarkozy as saying that"The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory." This statement is commonplace in western societies, who believe women should be able to wear what they want. It is argued that the Burqa is just another form of patriarchal control, an idea supported by many authors such as Joan Smith.

However, we must keep in mind that it is also offensive to women who choose to wear Burqas to assume that they don't want to be. Many women choose to wear Burqas to honor the passages in the Qur'an for pious reasons, rather than being forced to. I am interested to see the response of the French public if this ban is approved. Whereas previously the Taliban forced women to wear headscarves, does France have the right to tell women what they can't wear? What does this say about France's commitment to separation of church and state?

1 comment:

Laur said...

I'm studying abroad in Egypt next year and it's the same law about religious expression at AUC--I totally agree, Laura. I am so happy that women will not be forced to wear the veils, but a little disturbed that they can't even if they want to...