Recently, seven people in France were brought into questioning following a demonstration in support of Pussy Riot, according to an article from The Age. The people were not in trouble for the content of their protest or for becoming violent, but for wearing burqas, traditional full-face veils worn by Muslim women. They were brought in for questioning because, as of April of last year, wearing burqas publicly in France is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to €150.
The government justified the ban by saying it was introduced to combat a rise in Muslim extremism, according to The Age. It is also argued that the ban is to further gender equality in France, which is an important value in the country.
Another aspect of the bill is that people who force another to wear an article of clothing similar to the burqa could be sentenced to jail time. The article from The Age says that this measure was clearly aimed at Muslims and I could see how people would think that.
I can see the point behind the ban, especially in a time of higher racial tension. However, I don’t think the ban necessarily makes sense for France. With 5 million Muslims, the largest population of any country in Europe according to a Seattle Times opinion piece, can France afford to make such a large group feel inferior? The piece from The Age also pointed out that the ban has not been heavily enforced because officers feel that it would cause tension. Wasn’t the reason for the ban and its enforcement to combat racial tension?
I don’t see the point of creating a law that causes controversy and targets a specific group of people if it is not going to be enforced.
Finally, supporters of the ban say that it is a step in the right direction for women’s’ rights in France. However, I see it as the opposite. Banning the wearing of the burqa limits the practice of Islam. Women should have the choice to wear the burqa and practice their religion to the fullest. I don’t think true feminism would take away a woman’s right to choose what she wears.