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