A woman wears a burqa as she shops with her family at a street market in Roubaix northern France, August 9, 2009. France's ruling party has announced plans to present a bill to ban Islamic veils in all public places. Farid Alouache/REUTERS

“The wearing of the full veil is the tip of the iceberg,”
“There are scandalous practices hidden behind this veil,”
“Can we accept covered faces in the 21st century in our streets and in the public space? That’s the question,”

– Andre Gerin, President, French Parliamentary Mission on the Full Veil.

“The burqa plays out as something more spectacular than the minaret as a political symbol,”
“It hides the face. It seems alien. There’s something a bit appalling about it, and it relates specifically to what is seen as a dangerous part of the world and to an extreme variant of Islam. Using the burqa is a very smart political strategy.”

– Pap Ndiaye, School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, Paris

The report recommends:

A parliamentary vote supporting the rejection of the full veil:

a symbolic move designed to demonstrate that “all of France” rejects the full veil and that it should be “prohibited in the French Republic”.

A ban on the wearing of the veil in public institutions:

Rather than opting for an outright ban on the veil as proposed by Jean-Francois Copé, the commission recommends that the ban should only apply to public places – hospitals, post offices, public transport and the like. Even so, the proposal carries significant legal risks, including the possibility that the ban may contravene European Human rights legislation.

Educational programmes:

The commission seeks to avoid stigmatising the 1,900 women in France who wear the veil, and by extension the wider Muslim community. The report recommends ongoing educational programmes aimed at reducing fundamentalism and promoting France’s republican values.

Measures to reduce stigmatising the French Muslim community:

Less discussed than the veil issue, the report also recommends measures aimed at the wider Muslim community, including the creation of a “national school of Islamic studies”, debates on the nature of Islamophobia, direct aid for the building of mosques and Islamic cultural centres, and the creation of new national holidays to celebrate religious festivals such as the Islamic Eid and Judaism’s Yom Kippur. However, some of these proposals were not unanimously approved by the commission, and are included in the report simply as “individual suggestions”.

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