Jean-François Copé (pictured left), of the conservative French political party, the UMP, has recently tabled legislation that would make wearing the burqa or niqab in public an offence punishable by a fine of 750 euro. The draft text reads: “No one may, in spaces open to the public and on public streets, wear a garment or an accessory that has the effect of hiding the face.” André Gerin, chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the use of full face veils in France, ruled out the possibility of a total ban in November of last year. We blogged about the Gérin Commission here. It is expected to report some time this month. The New Zealand Herald translates an interview which Copé gave to Le Figaro explaining the rationale behind his proposal:
“The parliamentary resolution will help to recall the fundamental principles of respecting the rights of women as a key element of the Republic. The law will respond to the question of security… How can we imagine that a teacher can let a child go out of school and be handed over to someone whose face cannot be seen?… At a time when we are developing the means of video-protection, how can we think of people walking around with their faces covered?..Exceptions to the ban would be made for “carnival or cultural events” where people were masked, he said.
As news comes that France will follow Britain’s lead in launching a ‘national identity’ project, I am reminded to check in on the country’s latest foray into the regulation of Muslim women’s dress: the National Assembly’s Mission d’information sur la pratique du port du voile integral sur le territoire nationale. The mission was created on June 23rd at the instance of André Gerin – with the support of a number of right wing deputies - and met in July, September and October of this year. The hearings will finish in December and the final conclusions should be available in January. Transcripts of the sessions of the mission so far are available here and videos of the sessions are here. The transcripts of the mission’s hearings – which include testimony from hospital professionals, mosque representatives, feminist groups, mayors, philosophers, anthropologists, historians and others – certainly make for interesting reading. The main points are summarised after the jump.