Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Burqa and No French Citizenship!

Earlier this week, the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy took another shot at the burqa! The Immigration Minister of France - Eric Besson, refused French citizenship to a man whose wife wears the burqa. What's the burqa? It's clothing that covers a woman from head to foot, with an opening for the eyes and the hands. It is not worn indoors in the presence of the family - it is worn when the woman leaves the house. The burqa is a vivid reminder of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban rule, women were required to wear the burqa. The oppressive Taliban regime is long gone but women are still wearing the burqa. Make no mistake, not all the women wearing the burqa find it oppressive. A woman in Afghanistan once said, "I feel naked without my burqa. I cannot take it off. I would feel like everyone is looking at me." This points to the fact that many women wear the burqa by choice. What therefore is the raison d'être for the denial of French citizenship to a man whose wife wears the burqa?

In France, there is 57% support for a ban of the burqa and the case against the piece of clothing is not seen as breeding islamphobia or an attack on islam - it is considered to be a fight for the liberation of women from oppression. In France, the burqa is seen, by many, as a sign of oppression!

In June 2009, President Sarkozy labelled the burqa "a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement." Politicians call it a "walking prison for women." It is therefore no surprise that the French parliamentary commission recommended a partial ban on veils that cover the face. The ban is yet to be voted on. However, the denial of French citizenship to a man whose wife wears a veil sends a strong signal - that the burqa is not welcomed in France. Believe it or not! According to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, by forcing his wife to wear the burqa - the man failed to respect the "values of the Republic." Hence, he cannot be granted citizenship. The Minister of Immigration, on his part, said the man was refused citizenship because he called his wife "an inferior being" and forced her to wear the burqa in public.

It is worth mentioning that France already has a ban for wearing headscarves in state schools. However, a complete ban of the burqa could be overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (I love this court!). No doubt, this is the case because it would infringe the human rights of the many muslim women who wear the burqa by choice.

What's your standpoint on the burqa and French citizenship? Could this be an attack on Islam?

Keep in mind that it is not clear if the man who was refused French citizenship actually forced his wife (a French woman) to wear the burqa, or if it was her choice.

I look forward to reading your comments.

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