French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposed legislation that would ban women from wearing Islamic veils – like the niqab or the burqa, that fully cover the face and body in public places – has spawned a maelstrom of controversy in the Arab world over women’s rights and religious freedom.
According to a Muslim vendor who was quoted by the Associated Press, “The new measure, in addition to being taken as “ridiculous and misplaced” has also been cited as “racist.”
In commenting on the ban Sarzoky told reporters this week that the veil “hurts the dignity of women and is not acceptable in French society.”
Donna Kennedy-Glans — author of “Unveiling the Breath,” which she said allows people to see what lies beneath the veils — is also founder of the Calgary, Canada-based Canada Bridges, an advocacy-like organization which works with Muslim women who wear face veils. ?Glans said oftentimes the coverings are very uncomfortable and give individuals who wear them “a lack of power and diminished role in society.” She said as a result, there’s been pressure in the Provence of Quebec for a ban.
But according to Glans, putting into place laws that prevent people from wearing the veils, serve as set ups for constitutional arguments. “And, I expect that’s what’s about to happen in France,” Glans told the AFRO. “You’re also saying to people that they can’t do something, and the reaction of any human told they ‘can’t is to become defensive.” ?Michael Fauntroy, professor of public policy at George Mason University, pointed out that just because someone wears a the veil doesn’t necessarily mean they’re female, as men could just as easily don the garb.
“I think the move to ban the head wrap is, in some respects, a reflection of some of what is going on in French culture in terms of Muslim extremism,” Fauntroy said, alluding to several riots that occurred a few years ago in the suburbs of Paris, primarily involving North African Muslims or immigrants.
“So they have a history of this, and they’re certainly trying to take steps to make sure that the kinds of things that are going on with other countries can be prevented,” he said.