Immigrants to sign a ‘no burqa’ contract
`Equality between men and women fundamental principle’
09 February 2010: In an apparent to bring down the veil on the practice of wearing burqas, France wants to the immigrants to sign a ‘no burqa’ contract before being allowed to live in the country.
The assertion by families minister comes just over a fortnight after a parliamentary investigation suggested ban on burqas in French public offices, hospitals, trains and buses.
The clause will be added to an ‘integration agreement’ that all newcomers already have to commit to. The agreement already imposes a ban on forced marriages and polygamy.
Giving details, the families minister Nadine Morano said equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of French society; and it applies to polygamy, forced marriages, female mutilation and the full-face veil.
The proposal came at a government conference. It follows a three-month debate on national identity.
The committee of inquiry rejected the demand of several members of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling centre-right party for an outright ban on the burqa or niqab. It was of the opinion that the possibility of such a ban being declared unconstitutional under French and European law could not be ruled out.
In fact, the official inquiry by a group of MPs had just stopped short of recommending the total ban on the ground they should still be allowed in private homes.
The committee’s head Andre Gerin was of the view a full ban could enflame Muslim tensions and drive some to extremism.
Such a move could also backfire as it was likely to be challenged by the European Court of Human Rights, he had expressed the apprehension.
A narrow majority of 32 members had, however, accepted a compromise suggested by the President and Prime Minister François Fillon; and called for a somber, but unenforceable parliamentary motion declaring the full-length veil to be "un-French".
They were of the opinion that the move should be soon followed by a law forbidding people to cover their faces in "official" public spaces, from hospitals to post offices.
Only about a week ago, the French government had refused citizenship to a foreigner, who forced his French wife to wear a full-face Islamic veil.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson said inquiries had shown the foreigner was compelling his French wife wear the veil.
Besson said the foreigner was depriving his wife of liberty to come and go with her face uncovered. By doing so, he rejected the principles of secularism and equality between men and women, Besson said. According to Le Figaro newspaper, the foreigner came from Morocco.
In all, the total number of women wearing both full-body veil is around 1,900. The total French population of adult, Muslim women is approximately 2 million.
In Britain, the British national party (BNP) has adopted a motion for banning burqa from public view.
Nigel Farage, who heads the UK Independence party’s 13 MEPs, recently asserted he was not in favour of Muslim women covering their faces. Besides security reasons, they were also a symbol of a divided Britain, he said.