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France’s Proposed Policy On Face-Covering Veils

January 25, 2010

For whatever reason I am drawn to the conversation and policy making debate in other countries over Islamic culture and tradition.  As of late in France there has been great discussion over the fate of face-covering veils.   There may be a consensus emerging on how to proceed.  I tend to think that on this issue there has to be a chance for modernity to shape the change as opposed to government action.  While I do think that in settings, such as science classes in schools where a bunsen burner and free-flowing fabric are a potential disaster, there needs to be more strict guidelines.  But on the whole I think that the evolutoion of thought and social progress will do more for the end of such out-dated practices  effecting women than an offical policy.

A French parliamentary panel will stop short of recommending a ban on face-covering veils in the street and instead will ask for the garb to be banned in public facilities such as hospitals, the panel’s president says.

The 32-member panel’s report, due Tuesday, will culminate a six-month inquiry into the wearing of all-encompassing veils that began after President Nicolas Sarkozy said in June that they are “not welcome” on French territory.

Muslim religious leaders have warned that a law banning face-covering attire in the streets could stigmatize Muslims and drive some to extremism. They were joined last week by Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders who said they consider such a drastic step unnecessary.

France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at some 5 million. Only a tiny minority of Muslim women wear such attire, usually a “niqab” pinned across the face to cover all but the eyes.

France’s critics of the veil call it an offense to France’s tradition of secularity, as well as a gateway to extremism and an obstacle to gender equality.

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