Yesterday, the French government decided to impose a $185 fine on women who wear a full-face Islamic veil in public. According to the Washington Post:
President Nicolas Sarkozy said his government was forwarding the legislation to parliament because it had a “moral responsibility” to uphold traditional European values in the face of an increasingly visible Muslim population, estimated at more than 5 million, the largest in Western Europe. He called the course chosen by his government “demanding” but “just,” and he said the law was not intended to stigmatize Muslims.
Not intended to stigmatize? Tell that to one of only 2,000 women in a country of 64 million inhabitants who don the burqa, as it’s called in Afghanistan, or the niqab, as it’s called in North Africa. Tell that to the woman who, a year from now, when the law goes into effect, suffers this series of potential indignities:
It would give police the right to demand that women lift their veils to identify themselves. If they refused, police could hold them for up to four hours for an identity check. If cited for wearing the veil, women would be referred to a prosecutor, who could fine them, force them to attend “citizenship classes” or both.
This is a big ol’ dish of xenophobia, with sexism and religious persecution on the side. Controlling what a small minority of women wear and how they choose to incorporate religious practices into their daily lives is unacceptable. Seems like the only “traditional European values” that Sarkozy is upholding are intolerance and fear of the other.