Where: Paris, France
June 23, 2009 : A small but growing group of French women wear burqas and niqabs, while many more wear the simple Muslim headscarf. Burqas and niqabs cloak the entire body and cover everything but the eyes. Last week, President Sarkozy told Parliament he proposed banning burqas in public, calling them “a sign of debasement” for women.
“We cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.” The President’s statement came after a petition demanding a parliamentary inquiry on the wearing of burqas by a group of 60 lawmakers from all political parties.
Now, a 32-member commission with members from France’s four major political parties will study the issue over six months. The commission’s report could result in a law banning burqas from being worn in public. A similar type of commission passed a law in the year 2004 banning the wearing of Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses at public schools. France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million.