The French ban on burqas has gone into effect, which some feel is a gross offense to civil liberties. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The ban on Muslim women wearing burqas, or the full dress that covers a woman from head to toe including the face, has just gone into effect in France. Many feel that the ban on the garments typically worn solely by the most conservative of Muslims is a gross affront to civil liberties. Protests have begun to break out against the law.

Small protest at Notre Dame leads to two arrests

On the morning of April 11, a ban went into effect across the nation of France. The French burqa ban has many people up in arms over what is considered a drastic violation of civil liberties, according to the BBC. The French legislature approved the ban on burqas, the black garment that covers the wearer from head to toe including the face, during the fall. The morning that the measure became an enforced law, a small number of people gathered outside the Notre Dame cathedral to protest the law. Two protesters were women wearing burqas, and they were arrested for disturbing the peace. They will also face a fine for wearing the burqa. Five men were also detained because of the protest, according to The Telegraph.

Burqa ban causes outrage

Any woman found wearing either a burqa or a niqab, the simple black veil, can be fined up to 150 euros and required to take a mandatory course on citizenship. Men who force their wives or daughters to wear a burqa or niqab, however, face a far stiffer penalty, according to the Christian Science Monitor. A man found to be forcing his wife or daughter to wear such garments could face fines of 30,000 to 60,000 euros and a year or more in prison. French citizens have mixed opinions on the ban. Some say the ban is a travesty and a terrible offense against civil liberties. The law doesn’t explicitly name Islamic dress, but it outlaws coverings of the face. Many feel it is thinly veiled discrimination against Muslims.

Western backlash

French law enforcement officials are vague about how well the law will be enforced, except perhaps for when practical. There is a somewhat hostile undercurrent in some Western nations toward Islam. During the past few years, Switzerland banned minarets, a key part of the architectural design of mosques, and Belgium has also banned burqas and niqabs. No country explicitly bans burqas; the usual ban is a covering of the face except for masks worn for medical reasons or equipment that obscures the face for safety purposes, like a motorcycle helmet. However, some countries’ laws require women to wear a head covering.


BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13031397

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8443679/Two-arrested-in-France-as-burka-ban-comes-in.html

Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2011/0411/Face-veil-ban-Will-France-take-a-hard-line

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