France bans face covering veils

Published: July 14, 2010
France banned the face covering veil. PHOTO: AFP

France banned the face covering veil. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS: French lawmakers voted overwhelmingly, on Tuesday, to ban the wearing of face covering veils in public spaces, as Europe toughens its approach to integrating Muslim immigrant communities.

On the eve of Bastille Day, when France celebrates the birth of what was to become a staunchly secular republic, the 577 seat National Assembly lower house voted by 335 votes to one for a total ban.

The bill will now go to the Senate in September, but opponents of the total ban say if it was overturned by the judges of the Constitutional Council, France’s highest legal body, it would hand a victory to the fundamentalists. For while President Nicolas Sarkozy’s determination to ban the niqab and the burqa won enough political support to carry it, the critics argue that it breaches French and European human rights legislation.

The bill defines public space very broadly, including not just government buildings and public transport, but all streets, markets and thoroughfares, private businesses and entertainment venues.

Just ahead of the vote, Socialist lawmaker Francois de Rugy warned that if judges overturned the law it would be a “priceless gift to the fundamentalists we all oppose” and accused the right of electoral grandstanding. But Socialist and Communist deputies did not vote against the bill, they simply abstained, and it sailed through without a hitch.

Similar laws are pending in Belgium, Spain and some Italian municipalities, but the ban is particularly sensitive in France, whose rundown city suburbs are home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority. Last week, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told lawmakers debating the bill that its adoption would assert French values and help to better integrate Muslim communities into the national way of life.

She said being forced to wear the niqab or the burqa “amounts to being cut off from society and rejecting the very spirit of the French republic that is founded on a desire to live together.”

Critics say the law exploits a non problem – only about 1,900 women among France’s five to six million Muslims wear a veil – in a bid to pander to anti immigration voters and to distract attention from France’s economic woes.

The bill was condemned by London based human rights group Amnesty International, which had written to all French parliamentarians urging them to reject it. “A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s expert on discrimination in Europe.

Fines of 150 euros 190 dollars will be imposed on those caught wearing the veil, after a six month grace period to allow time to educate Muslim women about the ban. Men who force their wives or daughters to cover themselves for religious reasons face stiffer penalties of up to 30,000 euros and a one year jail term.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (37)

  • Shazia
    Jul 14, 2010 - 11:37AM

    Excellent! A pipe dream I know, but I wish we could do this in Pakistan as well. It’s not part of our culture either, but another manifestation of Saudi traditions (like the less sinister “Allah Hafiz”) that have insinuated themselves into our society since General Zia’s active promotion of Wahabbism in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Jul 14, 2010 - 11:43AM

    Fair enough!Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid
    Jul 14, 2010 - 11:48AM

    I probably would be the only one who have actually supported banning the burqa (face vels) because for one reason I feel it’s like caging women. No matter how much my fellow people scold me for it, I have my reasons to support this being a liberal.Recommend

  • Raza
    Jul 14, 2010 - 1:05PM


  • Abdullah Wiqar
    Jul 14, 2010 - 1:11PM

    youre all nuts. there may be men who force women to wear the veil and i agree that THAT is wrong, but there are also other women who wear it because they choose to, because its their desire to cover their faces. Islam was not introduced by Zia-ul-haq. He was no prophet or representative of Allah. He was a mere human being, so to say that the burqa and the veil were introduced by Zia-ul-Haq is a sign of extreme narrow mindedness and shortness of vision. Our religion espouses modesty and the veil and the burqa are symbols of modesty and piety.

    Religion aside, the State has no right to dictate how an individual dresses up. Thats basically what the French State is doing. They are forcing the Muslim women to change their wardrobes. That`s it. And what about Allah Hafiz. Recommend

  • Salaar
    Jul 14, 2010 - 1:13PM

    It’s good for security reasons, if nothing else. Otherwise anyone could put on a burka, walk into a bank, and rob it without ever being identified on CCTV, for example. The ban should be worldwide. Recommend

  • Azeem
    Jul 14, 2010 - 1:29PM

    Forcing anyone to wear the veil is a penalty that deserves punishment. Forcing someone noit to wear the veil despite their “Wanting” to do so…………. Whats the difference?Recommend

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Jul 14, 2010 - 2:15PM

    There can be no sane woman who would want to wear the veil out of her own free will. The burqa has been imposed on them thru their men and generation old traditions. We should ban the burqa and liberate our women.Recommend

  • A.F.
    Jul 14, 2010 - 2:19PM

    I agree with you Salaar. It is a very good decision by french parliament and it should be followed by other european countries tooRecommend

  • Zaigham Ali
    Jul 14, 2010 - 2:47PM

    Yes France did the right thing by putting ban on face covering because terrorists can also hide themselves behind the veil. These hard lined women along with their family should go back to their respective countries because they are damaging the true sense of Islam.

    We have to see what Islam says regarding face covering. In the present scenario the Muftis of Islam should sit together and issue fatwa that face covering is not allowed in this way we can curb terrorist activity.Recommend

  • Abdullah Wiqar
    Jul 14, 2010 - 2:56PM

    To Dr.Asad:

    Just because you don’t agree with the veil or the burqa doesn’t mean someone who does wear it or agree with the concept of the veil is insane. You have made some sweeping statements without providing any evidence or basis for them. Also, they’re not your women, so you really don’t need to liberate any of them.

    Salaar, bank robberies of the wild wild west nature are dead and gone. Banks nowadays are robbed via clicks of a mouse and one’s skill of bypassing the many firewalls of a bank. Also, i think bank robbers are cool. They’re doing a good deed by robbing banks. The deposits of the masses are safe because they’re insured. When a bank robber robs a bank, what happens is that insurance premiums a bank pays go up. The hard earned deposits of the public remain safe. So only the greedy, vile, fat banks suffer, which at the end of the day is a good thing :D and why is it a good thing? Because get fat on usury, riba, interest. Recommend

  • Jaffar khan
    Jul 14, 2010 - 3:00PM

    Well done French.It should be banned in Pakistan also.Recommend

  • Abdullah Wiqar
    Jul 14, 2010 - 3:17PM

    It’s unfortunate that we as Muslims are so pathetically apologetic about our own religion. You need to learn about your religion before you can talk for or against it. Recommend

  • Shah
    Jul 14, 2010 - 4:00PM

    @Abdullah Wiqar

    Anyone born and brought up in a freedom loving household or society would be crazy to wear a veil. The chaddor, the abaya or the sheila can be Islamic attire but there is no burqa in the religion. Kindly check the facts.

    Saying that bank robbers are cool shows that you are immature and do not consider all the angles of what you are saying. People tend to get killed, injured and disabled for life. When the insurance premium goes up for the bank, the service charges are levied on the customers, during the robberies the customers at the bank also loose what they have in their pockets and hands. No insurance would cover that. Please think before you speak else you will turn into the next Imran Khan and start suffering from Foot in Mouth Disease.

    It was never Allah Hafiz, it was Khuda Hafiz and people want to change is because Khuda is not one of the names of Allah.Recommend

  • Zafar
    Jul 14, 2010 - 4:49PM

    @Abdullah Wiqar
    There are among us who dont know anything and have no Islamic studies nor bothered to take a step forward to learn before speaking/typing and in this virtual world .

    @Dr. Asad Sadick
    You wanna liberate women from what ? In Islam women are allowed to expose there whole face just like nuns in churches but are not stopped or discouraged if they want to cover there whole face also its up to the Islamic Woman to decide not by liberators like you.
    France is just making a stupid mistake to impose this on Muslim women which in return will make more Islamic/non-Islamic women think and convert to Islam InshAllah.Recommend

  • Jul 14, 2010 - 4:49PM

    Always Shame on those who is in Support of Ban on Hijjab X-(Recommend

  • Rohail Khan
    Jul 14, 2010 - 4:59PM


  • Abdullah Wiqar
    Jul 14, 2010 - 5:05PM


    Please read posts carefully. I never attached the burqa to the tenets of the religion. Merely stated that it’s not crazy or insane to wear one if you want to be extremely modest. It’s taking a concept of Islam and doing the utmost to make sure you’re applying it properly in your life.

    Also, know when someone’s jesting :)

    Weird point. Allah Hafiz or Khuda Hafiz. Khuda Hafiz was persian. Khuda means God, a God. Allah is our Allah. It’s more specific, more literal and more personal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, do you? Recommend

    Jul 14, 2010 - 5:58PM

    When some one wearing burqa you dont know who is wearing a women or man a criminal who is most wanted you can do crime and no one can identify you there are so many negative things beside wearing a burqa.

    Being honest i can tell you a true story my friend Imran (name changed) having an account in a bank located at korangi industrial area Bank Al habib some one stolen a chq rupees 50000/= and cash it from the counter when my friende asked from the bank about this issue they show him a cctv video there was a women/man wearing a burqa cash that chq why he/she use burqa cause no one can identify him/her.

    so in the present situation when peoples using negatively burqa so its demand to change those things which are dangerous for peoples.

    In Pakistan Government should ban the burqa also.

    Thanking you,

    Rehan Saghir Burney Recommend

  • Ali Haider
    Jul 14, 2010 - 7:16PM

    Good stuff!!!Recommend

  • Waqas Taimoor
    Jul 14, 2010 - 9:46PM

    If the French government has banned the definition of burqa shown in the picture above then i think they have done the right thing. I think this is a little too much to only show your eyes.

    I think we are to blame ourself for this decision because the way Mullah in Pakistan are portraying Islam in the west, we knew this was long awaiting. We should not be surprised of this decision.Recommend

  • Shabbir Bukhari
    Jul 14, 2010 - 10:50PM

    I think it a great decision.PPP should also follow it by banning the Walking Prison in Pakistan too.Now there are people who will say that its a matter of choice.No my friends.Its a matter coercion.Women are socialized like slaves.So its a result of this socialization that women wear veil with out any resistance.Will you call it a matter of choice…!It is only the symbol of patriarchal order.

    Just like this the children of slaves were socialized into slavery so that they start believing that it was some kind of natural arrangement.So where is the choice.Independent researchers have confirmed that veiling long predates Islam.Before Islam Christians,Jews and Zoroastrian women used to wear veil.Recommend

  • Aneeqa
    Jul 15, 2010 - 5:04AM

    your face is what identifies you. it should be visible.Recommend

  • Abdullah Wiqar
    Jul 15, 2010 - 10:59AM

    Aneeqa: so do fingerprints :)

    Shabbir what about the women who want to wear it ? Lemme guess, you’re probably gonna say that they’ve been made to think that? they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that they should wear it..? How is it possible for you guys to not even concede that there might be a slight possibility that there may be a woman out there in this world of billions who does the burqa by her own choice ? How can you be so tight fisted and narrow minded ? Recommend

  • deathcase
    Jul 15, 2010 - 2:28PM

    to all those men who support wearing burqa.. go and wear burqa for 1 week and then you will know how it feels. Im sorry but we are stuck up in the wrong interpretation of islam. in my view, islam does not require a women to even cover her head let alone wear a stone-age burqa.

    In some other post, one gentlemen safarl i believe raised a very valid point that if many women choose voluntarily to don a burqa, why is that not a single non-muslim women feels the same way?

    i think we tend to think in extremes.. either a burqa or a bikini.. grow up!!!Recommend

  • Hadi
    Jul 15, 2010 - 3:42PM

    Let me inform those who are in favour of hiding their face is the fact veil was the official dress code for prostitutes in babylonian empire and in the ERa of Caliph Omer (RTA). Besides in the era of Holy Prophet Muhammad S.A.W women were not used to cover their face, neither attire this kind of hijab which is in fashion these days. they used to take a big shawl or cloth type of something to cover their clothes, body and jewellary. they did not cover their faces.
    now, coming to the french govenment ban on hijab, every government or nation has a right to impose laws on minority, such kind of laws are implemented in past, for example sikhs wearing turban under the jurisdiction of taliban or forced to wear.
    in my opinion, French government is quite justified in imposing such a law as these people are connossieur and beauty and asthetic sense of fench is supposedly high as comparing to other nations.Recommend

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Jul 16, 2010 - 1:01AM

    To Mr. Waqar,

    I think I am entitled to my views and opinion re the Burqa. If you dont agree does’nt mean they might not be correct. You are entitled to your opinion just as I am. I would’nt agree to western women walking the streets of Lahore or Karachi in hot pants or bikinis the way they do here. Hope that settles it. Recommend

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Jul 16, 2010 - 1:11AM

    To Mr. Zafar

    Glad you responded. Liberation comes from within and not by force. The mind-set is warped, why women should wear the burqa. Islam does’nt teach “to wear the burqa”. Moreover, its the men from whom they do purdah. Purdah again has to be from within and not imposed. Why are our men so that women need to wear the burqa? Are these not double standards? Hope that makes sense! Recommend

  • Bilal
    Jul 16, 2010 - 9:26AM

    To M.r hadi,womenare said to cover every part of their body from men,soiwld appreciate if u first attain correct info then comment.
    @ all above against burqa,women shld be given allrights and liberty to wear what they desire.Recommend

  • Ali Haider
    Jul 16, 2010 - 9:27AM

    @ Mr. Zafar

    //You wanna liberate women from what ? In Islam women are allowed to expose there whole face just like nuns in churches but are not stopped or discouraged if they want to cover there whole face also its up to the Islamic Woman to decide not by liberators like you.//

    Would you prefer praying all 4 rakats for Zohar when you are travelling, instead of praying Qasar?

    When Allah gives you a liberty you should take it. And if you prefer to live in a foreign country then you should go by their rules, if they match your religious obligations. Here, if French govt. has banned full face covering, which is something that Islam does not enforce, there should not be a problem, since you are not committing a sin.Recommend

  • Abdullah Wiqar
    Jul 16, 2010 - 11:14AM

    okay, I’m done. final words on the topic:

    women who want to wear the veil of their own free will and accord should be allowed to do so and to forbid them or restrict them is to deny them a basic human right, the right of choice.

    women who are forced to wear the veil should be helped and supported and the men or women forcing them should be adequately reprimanded or punished or even counseled and made aware of the true teachings of Islam.

    personal opinions in the realm of Islam or any other religion do not matter. Neither does impassioned “France rocks” type of rhetoric.

    Dr. Sahib, that does settle it. Tis was fun while it lasted :DRecommend

  • asad khan
    Jul 17, 2010 - 11:23AM

    i think its violation of human rights, ban on burqa,in the name of security or for security purposes.because terrorists do n’t have any religion and burqa or veil is an obligation in islam,so banning burqa would be distorting muslims faith and freedomRecommend

  • shaista
    Jul 17, 2010 - 1:53PM

    Anyone has no right to define either burqa is in Islam or not. There are many scholars who spent their whole life in research to understand Islam. So we cannot say any word if we have no time for Islam.
    There is another misunderstanding in people that Parda is imposed on a woman by force. Majority of Woman wear burqa with their own desire.

    And if the reason is security, will you have any guarantee that after ban there will be no crime.

    All man and woman who are supporting the ban have to answer in day of judgement. Are you ready to buy fire of Jhanam against your words?Recommend

  • deathcase
    Jul 17, 2010 - 3:58PM

    @ shaista

    i think this is the childish behavior that we need to get rid of. islam is much more than the length of beard or wearing a burqa. how many actually make as big as an effort as they do to promote burqa or shalwar above takhna to promote the essence of islam which to be good and righteous. We dont treat humans as humans and we are corrupt. yet all we are worried about is whether a women is in burqa or not. Recommend

  • Hira Mir
    Jul 21, 2010 - 11:48AM

    @shazia well said. Does a veil really judge what type of women you are? Man made theories and nothing else. How about we do the basics first rather than going to extreme. Recommend

  • Eraj
    Jul 21, 2010 - 11:50AM

    You will never see women hanging out in skirts in our country even if they are French so if they are banning veils. First we should learn to be tolerant than expect others I guess. Hypocrisy is biggest sin in Islam, to have double standards.Recommend

  • Yasir Qadeer
    Jul 22, 2010 - 12:40PM

    The methodology may have been the point of contention but at the end of the day if the choice was left to women, things wouldn’t have gotten this far. Many women wanted to get rid of it but couldn’t because of fear and family pressure.Recommend

More in World