Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
May 2011


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Veiled Threats

On Monday 11 April, the new French law banning the wearing of burqa in public places took effect. Women wearing nikab or burqa now risk a fine of $205 (AUD) and mandatory lessons on ‘being French’, as reported in The Saturday Age 9 April 2011.

Billboards across France will display the proclamation; a website has been created called ‘Unmasked Face’ and brochures in English and Arabic are available. This new law culminates the effort of President Sarkozy over a two-year period. Presidential elections are due next year, and critics see this new law as a way of luring far-right votes. The ban on face veils applies in the streets, post offices, cinemas, restaurants, public transport, beaches, gardens and any other public space. Exemptions include: homes, hotel rooms, at work, in cars and near mosques.

It is estimated that in France, approximately 1900 women wear the full veil or niqab. Few, if any, wear the all-encompassing burqa worn in some parts of the Subcontinent.

In addition to being fined, anyone breaching the law will undergo a citizenship class.  Apparently one concession has been granted: the woman herself will have to remove the veil—police officers won’t be permitted to do this.

Editor’s Comment:

Journalists and photographers have gathered from around the world…waiting.

Opinions are divided—even among French Muslims. Entrepreneur Rashid Nekkaz has volunteered to pay the fines of all women fined for wearing niqab in the streets, although he personally opposes face veils and supports the ban in places like banks, shopping centres etc. But when Sarkozy extended the ban to the street, ‘…he crossed a red line,’ said Rashid, who organised a protest outside Notre Dame Cathedral that hit the headlines on day one of the ban.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!