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Posts Tagged ‘france’

We Want to See Your Face: The Burqa in France, Belgium and Quebec

March 31, 2010 7 comments

Poster for Montreal film-maker Natasha Ivisic's documentary 'I wear the Veil'

 

On International Women’s Day, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg released a viewpoint which argued against restrictions on women’s religious dress. He stated that: 

Those who have argued for a general ban of the burqa and the niqab have not managed to show that these garments in any way undermine democracy, public safety, order or morals. The fact that a very small number of women wear such clothing has made proposals in such a direction even less convincing.  Nor has it been possible to prove that these women in general are victims of more gender repression than others. Those who have been interviewed in the media have presented a diversity of religious, political and personal arguments for their decision to dress themselves as they do. There may of course be cases where they are under undue pressure – but it is not shown that a ban would be welcomed by these women. 

Hammarberg seems to be in something of an unfashionable minority.In the past fortnight, three significant stories have broken about the regulation, in France, Belgium and Quebec, of the niqab and burqa worn by some Muslim women.  

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Conseil d’État rejects proposed prohibition of burqa, niqab

March 31, 2010 2 comments

The French Conseil d’État, in its capacity as advisory body rather than as administrative court of final appeal, yesterday issued a lengthy report, on the request of the Prime Minister, on the “legal possibilities surrounding the prohibition of the full veil.” This follows controversy and debate in France in recent months surrounding the wearing of the burqa in particular, the publication of the Gerin parliamentary report in January, and the report today that Belgium appears likely to become the first European state to legislate on this issue. In a measured, comprehensive and nuanced report, the Conseil concluded, somewhat predictably, that an outright prohibition on the wearing of the full Islamic veil would like contravene a number of provisions of the French Constitution as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (the report is published online here and the very useful summary here; it is unlikely, however, that either will receive an official translation into English).

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Walsh on Domestic Violence Law Reform in France

March 2, 2010 2 comments

We are pleased to welcome a second guest post from Kieran Walsh of UCC and Griffith College Cork. You can read more about Kieran on the guest contributors page.

France is currently updating its domestic abuse laws. The legislation has been passed by the lower house and now awaits senate approval. There has been unusual cross-party support for the new provisions which have provoked considerable derision in the Anglophone blogosphere. There are two key changes which have been made to the law: the criminalisation of psychological abuse in intimate relationships and the tagging of people barred from the family home.

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France and Muslim Women’s Dress: Report Relased

January 26, 2010 2 comments

Andre Gerin is Chair of the Commission which reported today

UPDATES on Wednesday: Here are links to some of the best commentary on the Gerin Report from today’s papers:  Raphael Liogier in the Guardian locates the partial ban within a broader crisis of French identity. The Financial Times calls the partial ban an example of ‘Republican bigotry‘ while the NYT claims that ‘the Taliban would applaud’ the French proposals. There is mention of a ‘pro-veil’ attack at a Paris mosque and discussion of splits within the Commission in the Times. The Independent also discusses the lack of French unity on the burqa question and the Christian Science Monitor discusses political strategising around Muslim women’s dress. An older article in the Independent argues that wearing the burqa in the 21st century is ‘preposterous’. The BBC asks ‘Should the UK ban the Muslim face veil?’.

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The parliamentary committee set up in June to investigate the wearing of the burqa and the niqab in France released its report today. The report is available here (in French only). “The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable,” says the report. “We must condemn this excess”. Agnes Poirier has an interesting take on the negotiations which led to the report. Natasha Lehrer summarises the key findings for the Index on Censorship as follows:

As expected, the commission stopped short of recommending a blanket ban on the wearing of the burka, proposing instead a ban on covering the face in administrative buildings, schools, hospitals and public transport. “This measure would oblige people not only to show their faces at the entrance to all public buildings but also to keep their faces uncovered during the entire period in which they are in a public building.” The report goes on to emphasise that “the consequence of violating this injunction would not be criminal but would be sanctioned by the service being sought being refused.”

In addition the commission suggests that wearing the burka might also be banned in buildings used by members of the public — for example banks or post offices — where identity checks and CCTV are used for security purposes, for example to prevent robbery. For similar reasons of public safety, driving whilst wearing the burka might also be forbidden.

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Eoin Daly: National Belonging – The View From France

November 16, 2009 2 comments

This is Eoin Daly’s second guest post for HRinI. You can read more about Eoin on the Guest Contributors’ page.

logoThe French Minister for Immigration and National Identity, Eric Besson, has launched a “great debate” on national identity, continuing an important theme of the Sarkozy presidency. Discussions will take place at town hall-style meetings, open to the public, over the coming months, with the views expressed to be collated in a subsequent report. It has aroused opposition and scepticism in at least a section of the political and intellectual Left, which sees it, with some justification, as a cynical move to appropriate the anti-immigration terrain of the National Front. In this blog post, I briefly consider the scope and likely tenor of the “great debate” in the light of the related traditions of republicanism and universalism in France’s public culture and history of ideas. In particular, I wish to touch upon the question of whether the troubling conflation of the debate on national identity with the immigration question is such as to jeopardise the possibility, for universalist republicanism, of openness to a plurality of ways of life, and of securing the social and political bond upon exclusively political ideals rather than pre-political commonalities.

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France, French Identity and the Burqa: Gerin Report Due in January

November 9, 2009 2 comments

Etre français aujourd'hui...c'est se cacher derrière son petit doigt (ou sa burqa tricolore) en refusant obstinément, sous divers prétextes, de se poser la question." - Robert Sole, Le Monde 27/10/2009

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.

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A Primer on ‘Hijab Debate 2009’.

September 9, 2009 6 comments


The garments.

The beginning of the new school year is as good a time as any to take stock of Europe’s seemingly boundless obsession with Muslim women’s dress. I blogged on the hijab in Ireland’s schools for the CCJHR blog in June of last year. Since then, RTE has produced a radio documentary about Shekinah Egan, whose case sparked Irish engagement with this issue.

When I talk about Muslim women’s dress, I have in mind a number of  types of garment which cover the face and body to varying degrees. They are displayed and labelled in the picture on the right, adapted from the BBC website.  The European debates have revolved around the permissibilty of restrictions on this broad class of dress. Even as it becomes a visible part of European popular culture and lived multiculturalism;  in rap music, art and sport, ‘the veil’ excites ever more exclusionary policy-making. This post is intended as an entry level guide to current debates and is confined to a selection of the most important ‘hijab’ stories which have been reported since January. Rather than getting into my own analysis  (or indeed, into the law or the voluminous academic commentary) in any detail in this post, I wanted to write a ‘basics’ post now which will introduce readers to the topic and ground my later contributions.

The European engagement with Islamic dress can be understood in terms of four broad themes: the what, who, where and why of restrictions on Muslim women’s dress.

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