This week, France began enforcing a ban on wearing a burqa in public, a controversial and highly short-sighted move on the part of the French government. Islam is the second largest religion in France after Catholicism, with adherents numbering close to five million.
As my friend and blogger from neighboring Belgium put it on April 11 [see http://www.adrianliston.eu/blog/2011/4/11/today-a-new-violation-of-civil-liberties-begins-in-france.html ]:
As of today, wearing the burqa on the streets of France will land you a fine of €150 and “re-education classes” or a jail term [These have also been referred to as “citizenship classses”]. Sarkozy has played the race baiting for purely political ends. It is clear that there is no gain to security (there are exceptions for every single face covering that is not Islamic) and that it is a farce to pass this off as feminist. I wonder how the people of France will respond to this disgraceful law when they start seeing French women being dragged into prison for their choice of clothing?
According to the Huffington Post, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that “such veils imprison women and [he] wanted a ban to uphold French values of equality and secularism.” Really? But what of freedom of expression or religion?
Writing for HuffPost Religion, Mike Ghouse, a speaker on Islam, commented:
Burqa is not a religious requirement but a cultural evolvement and is a part of the daily lives of nearly 5 percent of Muslims in France and about 20 percent across the globe. You cannot ask a nun to wear lesser garments or even those who are from conservative families to wear bikinis on the beaches. An Indian woman visiting France will not and should not comply with the demands of the French dress code in public places.
The day after the ban took effect, a 27-year-old woman was stopped by police in Les Mureaux in north-central France. She was handed a ticket that requires her to pay the fine [approx. US$215] or register for “citizenship classes” within a month.
So, what we have here is a story that is sadly being repeated globally in various and sundry insidious ways: religious intolerance and bigotry masquerading as concern for security or human rights. It is a disgrace, and the French government should be ashamed.
The ideals of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” [Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité] are apparently no longer valid.