French Government Prohibits Islamic Burquas

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P. Bosch/MCT Campus

Although burqas are rather noticeable to passerby, they impose no negative impact on a community and are merely a method of expressing the Muslim religion.

Lauren Dahlberg-Seeth, News Editor

The recent law implemented in France restricts Muslim residents from wearing veils in public

As of this March, it is officially illegal to wear a burqa or niqab in any public area of France. Although this law is estimated to have an impact on less than 2,000 women total, it sends a discriminatory message that has sparked a worldwide debate.

The idea of banning a religious garment seems shocking to many, especially to Westerners who have the fundamentals of human rights deeply ingrained in their lifestyle. Many question if the French government really has the right to take away their citizens’ religious freedom.

Officials in France state that these traditional Islamic face veils pose a safety hazard and that burqas and niqabs have been utilized for acts of crime in the past. This argument has some validity. Over the years, there have been a couple instances of burqa-clad robbers holding up post offices or banks in France. But that’s it—only a couple instances. To prevent this group of Muslim women from following their religion through benevolent means only further demonstrates France’s rigid secularism.

Although only a small percentage of women in France wear these veils, rougly one in ten French residents are Muslim. Limit the culture of a demographic that makes up almost 10% of France’s population seems like an unwise decision on the part of French government officials.

But this is not the first restriction put on the Muslim population. In 2004, Islamic headscarves, or hijabs, and other prominent religious symbols were officially banned from public schools. This law, which set a much broader religious limitation, meant that all students in public schools were prohibited from wearing headscarves, turbans, Jewish skullcaps, or large crosses on campus.

The recent ban, however, takes this idea one step further by eliminating Islamic face veils from the entire Muslim population in all public areas.

Many people worldwide support this ban because they believe Muslim men pressure their wives into wearing burqas or niqabs. While this definitely might occur, many women also wear face veils because it is their personal choice. One problem this ban presents is that it is difficult to differentiate between the two. While a woman wearing a burqa in a public area would be given a minimal fine of $200, a husband who forces his wife to wear a burqa against her will would be fined $43,000 and sentenced to one year in jail. These penalties are even harsher if the matter involves a minor.

While the intention of “liberating” Muslim women is very reasonable, the fact of the matter is that most Muslim women choose to wear niqabs or burqas on their own accord. And the ability to do so is their fundamental right as a human being.

Although France’s growing Muslim population is undoubtedly sparking religious tension, banning burqas will only amplify this problem. The practice of wearing these face veils is demonstrated by less than 2,000 women in France and has no harmful impact on the rest of France’s population. This ban has already faced severe backlash worldwide and will continue to face opposition until the French government reconsiders this discriminatory law.