Editorial : French niqab ban - Wednesday 13th April 2011

FRANCE`S controversial ban on face veils in public is now in force, and those violating it can be ordered to police stations for identity checks and will be fined or asked to take French citizenship classes. Two points must be noted here. First, what is alarming about the ban is not just its prejudice against Muslims. That can be found in many western countries, especially since 9/11, ranging from discrimination in everyday life at the hands of majority communities to dangerous precedents such as last month`s congressional hearings in Washington about extremism among American Muslims. What makes this latest development particularly disturbing is the institutionalisation of prejudice that it represents. By creating a formal ban through an act of legislation, France has given legal cover to discrimination. This is a slippery slope, and Europe would do well to contain the spread of such laws before it creates irreparable divides within populations that are already struggling to incorporate Muslim immigrants.
Second, it is reported that there are only about 2,000 women who cover their faces in public in France out of a Muslim population of five million and a total population of over 62 million. The integration of Muslim immigrants into the country is already a controversial issue riddled with prejudice. Given this context, the ban comes off as a political manoeuvre by the current French administration to play to right-wing sentiments rather than an intelligent piece of legislation designed to address the real issue. Was it necessary to ban an item of religious clothing and inflame opinions on both sides of this delicate divide because of a relatively insignificant number of individuals? The effect this disproportionate action could have, unfortunately, is simply to inflame extremist sentiment and widen the worrying gulf between Europe and its Muslim immigrants.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/13/french-niqab-ban.html

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