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France’s ban on full face veils went into effect last Monday. The law does not mention any specific religion or the word veil, but it makes it illegal to hide the face in public spaces. Anyone who wears the Muslim niqab or burqa in public faces fines of €150 ($216) and civil education classes about the country’s values of tolerance and respect for “human dignity.” A small group of people protested the new policy outside of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris claiming that the ban violates freedom of expression and religion. French President Nicolas Sarkozy supports the new policy asserting that full-faced veils imprison women and contradict the secular nation’s values of dignity and equality. Although only a very small percentage of Muslims in France wear full face veils, many view the ban as an affront to the country’s second-largest religion.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

  1. Under national law, France separates church and state but it has struggled with how to integrate the nation’s increasing Muslim population. Is the ban likely to integrate the Muslim faith into “traditional French culture?”
  2. Some in France argue that the new policy is needed to promote women’s rights. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this policy in achieving the goal of advancement of women’s rights.
  3. France is the member of the European Union, but the only country within trade bloc to have a ban on full face veils. Will France’s policy violate the rights of EU citizens to move within the EU member countries?

SOURCE: Colchester, M. (2011, April 12). French veil ban takes effect. Wall Street Journal, p. A16. (Retrievable online at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704662604576256493482608356.html)

Related video clip: Face Veil Protesters Detained as French Ban Begins. (Retrievable online at: http://www.euronews.net/2011/04/11/face-veil-protesters-detained-as-french-ban-begins/)

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