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France bans the Niqab or Burqa ~ What you should know about the full veil

Updated on July 8, 2011

France bans the niqab or burqa.

Many people are talking about the ban of the niqab or burqa in public areas in France. France is not the first country in Europe to ban the niqab or burqa. The niqab or burqa is in fact banned in Belgium and also in Turkey.

It is important to know the niqab or burqa is also banned in Islam’s holiest place Mecca. Any Muslim women who wish to perform this pilgrimage will knowingly be mixing freely with many men and are not allowed to wear either the niqab or burqa. The niqab or burqa is also almost never seen in Bangladesh or in Dhaka.

This leads me to wonder why there is such an outcry due to France joining Mecca, Turkey and Belgium in banning the niqab or burqa.

So what is the new law in France?

The law basically means that anyone wearing the niqab or burqa in public will face a fine of up to £216 and / or have to do a citizenship course.

The ban includes … The public streets and areas open to the public, as well as cinemas, restaurants, stations (bus, plane, train etc.), public transport and of course schools". Veils must also be removed while a person is driving any vehicle, while crossing borders or whenever taking part in official ceremonies to acquire French nationality. I definitely agree with the ban whilst driving because the full veil does limit the wearer’s sight and this is not good for anyone in charge of a vehicle.

Husbands and fathers who force such veils on women and girls risk a year of prison and a £25,000 fine, with both penalties doubled if the victim is a minor.

The full veil ban does not apply in a person’s home nor does it apply to car passengers. The ban will also not be enforced in or around Mosques. So if someone wishes to wear the niqab or burqa when entering a Mosque they may put it on outside the Mosque and wear it whilst inside. Alternatively women could choose to be driven to and from the Mosque and therefore wear their full veil from home and back again.

Perhaps it is important to understand that France banned the wearing of full veils, Jewish skullcaps and crucifixes in all schools in 2004.

So what do the French politicians say about the niqab or burqa?

President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burka as a "sign of debasement and subservience ".

The law's main author called it a way to "eradicate a minority of fundamentalists" who "instrumentalise Islam for political reasons."

For another minister, it was a stated to be a “male-imposed prison."

Michele Alliot-Marie, the former interior minister, said it "cuts women off from society and rejects the very spirit of the French republic, founded on a desire to live together."

Women’s rights campaigners denounced it as "a walking coffin".

According to a recent French poll … Nine out of ten French people back the banning of the niqab or burqa.

What does the Quran say about the niqab or burqa?

Interestingly enough the Quran doesn’t mention either of these at all and there is definitely no mention that women need to be covered with either of these.

The very first interpretation of the Quran, by Imam Tabari, says … "there is a consensus that women are not obliged to cover the face and the hands."

In the Quran, Sura 24:31, the reference to “khimar” reminds Muslim women of the need to “ over their bosoms” to show female modesty. Not the head.

The verse of the veil commanded only the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, as a mark of high distinction, to speak from behind a “hijab,” meaning a curtain (Quran Sura 33:53).So basically the niqab or burqa has not been worn because of any religious reasons that I have been able to find.

What do Muslim women think about the niqab or burqa?

Muslim women for the ban state …

“France’s ban of the niqab or burga in the public space is logical and one that many Muslim women welcome”.

“Being told that burqa's and niqab are pleasing to God deprives women of the truth and of making informed choices”.

“In cultures where women must wear the veil, they are denied full participation in public life”.

“Veiling didn't even begin with Islam. In the early Byzantine Empire, aristocratic -- Christian -- men veiled their wives to hide them from other men, in effort to ensure the paternity of their children”.

“Wearing the niqab which only has a slit for the eyes or a burqa, which covers the eyes with a mesh screen in fact, renders women invisible isolating them from the world around them and preventing them from fully participating in society. The garments also restrict women's movement”.

“Men invented veiling, not God. Many women believe if they don't wear the hijab, then no man will marry them".

Many Muslims have reported being verbally attacked for not wearing full head covering or have been threatened. For these women this law banning the burqa’s and niqab is a relief from some of the pressure placed upon them to conform to others views of what they should wear.

Another woman said that she was forced to wear a full veil at the age of 10 years old and it was like being a “fly trapped in a glass”. She said it made it hard to move and stopped her being able to play or to connect personally with her friends anymore.

Muslim women against the ban say …

It is important to note there are a lot fewer Muslim women who do not agree with the ban and they feel it stops them being able to “express themselves”.

Other woman said …

“Banning burqa’s – just like banning books – will only make them more popular as a symbol of resistance”.

"This law infringes my European rights; I cannot but defend them that is to say my freedom to come and go and my religious freedom”.

“The ban stops them being able to express themselves religiously and spiritually”.

There has been some mention that it stops women being able to wear whatever clothing they wish to wear.

Some women felt that Islam was under attack.

I do wonder if these women have been brought up to believe that these things are true or if they merely reiterate whatever the men of the household tell them. I am sure that some women do want to wear the full veil for whatever reason but I believe that saving the masses that don’t get the choice is definitely the most important thing.

When was the full veil first used in history?

In the early Byzantine Empire it was in fact Christian men who veiled their wives to hide them from other men’s eyes and desires. This was done in part to make sure the children born were definitely theirs. It also made sure there enemies could not identify and therefore harm or rape their wives.

This is recorded in history books well before the prophet Muhammad required only his wives to speak from behind a veil for very similar reasons which were “to avoid sexual harassment from his enemies”.

Some other information

The IFE put out a statement warning Muslim women that not wearing the veil was a "shortcoming" which may lead to apostasy. They said this "Islamic practice" was "not open to debate". Interestingly enough all 27 signatories of the statement were male.

A husband said "According to this law, my wife will have to remain cloistered at home”.

2,000 women, out of France's 5 million Muslims, are estimated to wear the face-covering garments at least those are the stats put out by the interior ministry.

A few years ago my partner and her boss were hiring for telecommunication jobs and a Muslim woman who got to final interview was asked if she would be willing to remove her full veil whilst at work as it would interfere in how well she heard the customers on the phone and would also interfere with how well the customers could understand her. She was told that if she could do this she had the job as she was one of the best interviewed. She had to get her husband to come in so she could ask his permission to do this.

Her husband stated that it was worn for religious reasons and that he would not allow his wife to remove it. My partner brought over a Quran from the bookshelf in the interview room and said that if he could show where in the holy book it stated that women must wear a full veil then his wife could wear the full veil at work, otherwise she would need to remove it during work hours.

He rang his spiritual advisor (sorry I can’t remember the word for this) and was told that there is nowhere in the book that says a woman must wear a full veil. Sadly he decided that his wife still could not take off the veil during work hours and therefore she didn’t get the job.

I found it interesting and sad that it was not her decision whether she could wear the full veil or not. Frances ban will save many women from being forced to wear a full veil so in my humble opinion I agree with the direction France has gone on this issue.


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    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      I agree that terrorism is most probably the motivating force to the banning of these face coverings.

      I personally agree with the banning as I stated in my hub and for the reasons I stated. I have to say that I still don't understand why anyone would want to wear either of these veils.

      Thanks for commenting and making me think once more on this subject sgbrown, I always hope that at some stage I will be able to understand the other side of the coin (so to speak). Have a wonderful day.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      We who were born in America, have been brought up very differently than those brought up in many Muslim countries. Each has their own culture and beliefs. I can't imagine myself agreeing to cover my face for anyone. The women that believe in this custom should be able to follow it if they wish. I do agree that they should not drive or operate any type of equipment while wearing either type of veil.

      The only real reason I can see that France as well as the other countries are so concerned about this is the fact that terrorism is at such a high level. However, I don't think we should force these women to change what they truly believe in.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Interesting! Women should be free!

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 6 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      thanks breakfastpop

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Excellent and informative hub. I too agree with France. If a woman wants to wear the veil in her home by all means, but in the public sector such as at work, no it doesn't make any sense at all. Up and awesome.