There's a movement afoot to ban the burqa in Europe. And it just scored another political point in France. On July 13, the lower house in the French Parliament voted overwhelmingly to outlaw wearing burqas and niqabs in public. But will this move help prevent terrorism or does it constitute oppression of religious freedom?
On the eve of Bastille Day, which marks the birth of the secular republic of France, the French National Assembly passed a bill to ban full face veils with 335 votes in favor of the bill and only one vote against it. Members of Parliament from the Socialist, Green and Communist parties held a more pro-veil sentiment, desiring to limit the ban to public buildings. But, under pressure from feminist groups that support the ban, these politicians chose to abstain rather than vote in opposition to the bill.
The text of the bill "forbids concealing one's face in public," and includes exceptions such as wearing medical bandages after surgery. Women who violate the law will be subject to a fine of 150 euros or "citizenship classes" or both. Men who force their wives to wear burqas or niqabs through threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or abuse of authority will be subject to a fine of 30,000 euros and one year in jail. The penalties are doubled for men who force minors to wear face veils.