Burqa: Sign of religion or subservience? A deeper look into secular France
The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic. -French president Nicolas Sarkozy
France prides itself on secularism, a principle they call laïcité, which implies the absence of religious involvement in government affairs and vice versa. France has the highest Muslim population in western Europe (8-9.6% of the total population) and continues to have a huge divide between the Muslims and non-Muslims in their country. French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave a speech during a special session of parliament in Versailles this morning to support the effort to banning of the burqa in public.
The burqa is an article of clothing worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire body. This is not to be mistaken with the chador or niqab (BBC news has a great explanation on the difference of the hijab (meaning veil) in Muslim traditions), which does not cover the entire body—leaving the eyes and other parts exposed.
“We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity.” -Sarkozy
Sarkozy’s statement is not surprising: in 2004, the French government did not allow any school children to wear religious symbols (Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps, Muslim headscarves) in schools, including young Muslim girls who used to wear head scarves to school. This was contraversial back then and continues to be a problem amongst the Muslim and non-Muslim populations.
The lawmakers who support this burqa ban want to inquire whether or not women choose to wear the garment. This would continue to widen the rift between Muslims and non-Muslims not just in France, but all over the world.
I personally believe that there should be more research into whether the burqa is being forced upon some Muslim women. It is important to point out that no where in the Quran does it state that women must wear burqas—this was interpreted by Islamic scholars (all men) who are the arbitraters of hadith, Islamic law. While the burqa is different from a head scarf, I believe that in many Islamic countries, including Morocco, the head scarf is more of a symbol of culture than religion. Some women choose to wear it; some don’t. I wonder if the same is for the burqa.
My other concern with this ban is that France is not following its laïcité principle–by making a law banning women to wear a religious symbol, the burqa, does that make government absent in religious affairs? I think not. Also, by putting this ban into law, it reinforces the stereotype that Islam is against the advancement of women. Why doesn’t the government focus on all religious affairs in their country; for example, allowing the ordination of women in the Catholic church?
I want to know your opinions about this: What do you think about this the burqa ban in France? Do you think it’s rightfully founded? Do you think it follows the laïcité principle? What do you think this ban will mean for women, in particular Muslim women?