London 28th January 2010 – On Tuesday 26th January, a French cross-party parliamentary committee called for its parliament to pass a resolution denouncing the face veil worn by some Muslim women, stating that the veil was “contrary to the values of the republic”.
Its report said, “The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess.” The Commission also unashamedly recommended that parliament refuse citizenship, residency papers, and access to public services such as schools, hospitals, public transport, and all government institutions including welfare offices to anyone wearing the Muslim face veil.
Andre Gerin, chair of the commission said the report should not “lead to a debate about religion” but instead focus on the “scandalous practices” of terrorism and extremism that “hide behind the full veil”. Earlier in the month, President Sarkozy used his New Year’s speech to once again attack the niqab, saying, “The full veil is not welcome in France because it runs contrary to our values and contrary to the ideals we have of a woman’s dignity.”
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz, Women’s Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain commented, “France has gained a reputation for forcing women to uncover, then stigmatising and criminalising those who don’t. Muslim women are therefore relieved that their dresscode be described as “contrary to the values” of this xenophobic, secular Republic.”
“The French President and parliamentary commission may want Muslim women to expose their faces, but through these recommendations and inflammatory comments, the ugly face of secular fundamentalism is clear for all to see. The denial of medical treatment, access to education, limitation of freedom of movement, refusing child benefit payments, and consequently rendering to second class status women who hold an alternative view to secular philosophy, reflects the religious apartheid and fascist nature of this extremist ideology.”
“Coming a few weeks before France’s regional elections, the publishing of this report is an obvious piece of electioneering, reflecting French politicians scrambling desperately for popularity amongst the Islamophobic sector of French society. It demonstrates that secular politics has no qualms in stigmatising, and whipping up frenzy and hysteria about its religious minorities or playing on irrational fears regarding Islam and Muslims in order to bag a few extra votes. It appears that France’s secular politicians are more than willing to use the Muslim woman as political fodder to feed their rankings amongst their electorate, masquerading as an altruistic concern for the security of their citizens or well-being of Muslim women.”
“As for Sarkozy’s ‘ideals of a woman’s dignity’, French taxpayers money would surely have been better spent on a commission investigating the degrading impact that prostitution and the pornography industry – both running freely in France under the premise of freedom of expression and ownership – have upon the ‘dignity’ of all women within the society.”
“Mr. Gerin is right that this report should not lead to a debate on religion. It should however, lead to a thorough debate about secularism and whether it can continue to claim to champion the cause of civilized, tolerant, and a ‘rights for all’ society. It should be a debate that questions the strength of an ideology that feels threatened by a piece of cloth, and that struggles to accommodate the basic rights of its minorities, or that resorts to state force rather than force of argument to ensure acceptance of its values. It should be a debate that focuses on the ‘scandalous practices’ of unadulterated religious racism and political opportunism that ‘hide behind’ this French obsession with the Muslim woman’s dress.”