BY TRACY PFEIFFER
ANCHOR CHANCE SEALES
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France’s so-called “burqa ban” took effect Monday, and less than a day after its enactment French police detained at least two demonstrators.
The BBC explains the incident.
REPORTER, VOICE OVER: “That sounds dramatic, but the police are insisting straightaway that they were not arrested because they were wearing -- or detained because they were wearing the burqa. They were detained by virtue of the fact that they had not obtained permission to hold this demonstration. So they have been quite clear, the police, that these are not been the first arrests under the new law.”
Although it’s popularly called a “burqa ban,” the law actually outlaws both the burqua, which covers a woman’s entire face, and the niqab, which leaves an open slit for the eyes. The hijab, another traditional Muslim headscarf, is allowed because it does not cover the face.(Video: euronews)
Monday’s clash has highlighted the difficulty French police say they will face in enforcing the ban. Al Jazeera has the details.
TOM FRIEND, REPORTER, VOICE OVER: “Women wearing the niqab in the street, on public transport, in a library or cinema, will all face a fine of more than $200, and a citizenship class to remind them of France’s secular values. But police will be forbidden to take off a woman’s veil, lock up a veil woman once arrested, or detain her for longer than four hours in a police station.”
France has an estimated 5 million Muslims living within its borders, the largest number in Europe -- but most agree no more than 2,000 women wear the full-face veils.
Those opposed to the ban say it violates women’s religious freedom and basic human rights -- but in an interview with ABC, one French politician insists, the law is not about religion at all.
JACQUES MYARD, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF FRENCH PARLIAMENT: “The face is the dignity of a person. The face is your passport, so when you refuse me to see you, I am the victim.”
LAMA HASAN, REPORTER, VOICE OVER: “The French government argues the clothing violates the principles of equality of its citizens and poses a threat to public safety. Criminals have used the burqa for cover in the past.”
Still, many aren’t convinced the law is anything but anti-Muslim propaganda. A blogger for France 24 argues, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is just trying to shore up votes for his upcoming re-election.
“Fear is easily translated into political currency and in France, the politics of fear has traditionally been the preserve of the far-right. No longer. More recently, the political rhetoric of the far-right has been matched by the mainstream right in a thinly-veiled attempt to poach voters...”
Finally, a writer for The Telegraph says, the entire debate is based on a fallacy -- arguing, most Muslim women who wear the burqa or niqab don’t do it for religious reasons.
“...the adoption of the veil is a fashion statement more than a religious one; it is the Islamic equivalent of becoming a goth, only instead of desperately trying to stand out by wearing black lipstick and nine-inch-heeled Dr Marten’s, you do it by putting a veil on your head and instantly becoming mysterious.”
The Telegraph also reports Holland, Spain, and Switzerland are considering similar laws. Protesters say they are wiling to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
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