Experts: Government's rejection of closed face of French Muslim women will continue even after change of power

Experts: Government's rejection of closed face of French Muslim women will continue even after change of power

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 16 /Trend, E.Ostapenko/

The irreconcilable position of the French authorities with regard to Muslim women's traditional clothing, which hides face, will remain unchanged even after change of the conservative government, experts believe.

"As far as the attitude towards the burqa, the left in opposition and the right in power share globally the same attitude, a strong position: Yes to the veil, No to the burqa," one of the leading European analysts Dominique Moisi told Trend, describing his perception of French society.

The lower house of the French parliament on Tuesday approved a ban on the wearing of female Islamic dress, which hides the face, in public. About 336 MPs voted for it, one was against it, about 240 MPs abstained from voting. In September, the law will be submitted to a vote in the French Senate.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (political conservative) is a staunch opponent of such women's clothing in France. In his speech a year ago at Versailles, Sarkozy has called the burqa and niqab as symbols of women's enslavement, which is contrary to the national values of France.

"The law falls under what it called "the Republican values", shared by both left and right, both being secular," said Sylvain Charat, director of Charat Consulting analytic center in Paris. Therefore, the authorities' policy will remain unchanged even if after the Socialists come to power.

The Socialist Party is the second leading party after the ruling conservatives, and there is probability that the representative of the Socialists will be elected the head of state during the next presidential elections in 2012.

According to the recently approved bill, it will be forbidden to wear burqa and niqab not only in state institutions or schools, but also on the street. The penalty for violation of the law will hit 150 euros. Violators will be obliged to attend the class on French law. The penalty for compulsion to wear the veil will be a hundred times more - from 15,000-19,000 euros - or a year of imprisonment.

The largest Muslim community, numbering about 5 million people of a total population of about 62 million lives in France. Every tenth French professes Islam. However, according to official figures, there are about 2,000 fully-covered women in France.

Many experts on religion were concerned that the ban on Muslim clothing can provoke aggression of adherents of Islam.

"We opposed against this decision even before starting discussions at the Parliament and now we do not change our opinion. Radical ban is not a way out," said the head of the Council of the Muslim Communities of France, Mohammed Musawi, as quoted by

International human rights organization Amnesty International also opposed the ban.

"There are a number of laws in France which are passed largely to make points rather than to deal with large scale problems. This is one of those and was intended to have a political affect.", professor of department of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, John Bowen said. 

Discussions in the French Parliament are held amid a major corruption scandal implicating the ruling elite to the financial machinations. This has reduced the already record-low rating of the government (26 percent). It is associated with the implementation of reforms unpopular among the public, in particular the pension reform. According to it, the retirement age in France in connection with the crisis will increase from 60 to 62 years old.

Moisi believes that the presidential support for the law on burqa and niqab is unlikely to be an attempt to restore its rating among the population. The French president, in his view, acts in accordance with the feelings of his citizens.

Niqab and burqa, as opposed to the Muslim headscarf (hijab) are indeed a violation of what we think of European culture and European values for the president, as well as for most Frenchmen, Moisi, a special adviser to the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI ) said.

It will have no special effect on Sarkozy's image, Sylvain Charat believes.

"It has been several years he is considered a hard liner toward immigration and religious extremists. It will continue to give him the image of a man leaning toward the far-right," said Charat.

According to experts, government's tightening of wearing burqa and niqab would have no impact on the flow of immigrants to France.

People immigrate for the economic reasons, deciding of where to go based on wealth or jobs, Bowen supposes.

According to him, from those small number of covered women in France most are French citizens, many of them are converts, and not many immigrants. Most of them put on a burqa for the first time when they are in France.

Moreover, according to Sylvain Charat, Muslim immigrants usually come from the parts of the world where people traditionally don't wear burqa or niqab, in particular from North Africa Sylvain.

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