Five years after the French parliament passed a law forbidding children from wearing the headscarf or any other “conspicuous” religious symbol in schools – read forbidding Muslim girls from wearing the veil in public schools, the French government has recently indicated it was prepared to legally ban the burka. In guise of defending Muslim women from what is seen as a ‘submissive act’, the French government spokesman Luc Chatel argued that women’s rights were compromised by the garments, suggesting that the government is seriously considering bringing in legislation to prohibit full veiling in France .
It seems that only several thousand French Muslim women, out of a Muslim population of five million, wear full veils, which politicians have described as ‘walking coffins’. This assumes that all Muslim women are coerced into wearing the veil, though research has shown that outside countries where veiling is mandatory, such as Afghanistan or Iran , Muslim women veil for a variety of mostly political reasons. Some veil in reaction to their more assimilated parents, others in response to the westernisation of society; and for many others veiling spells not deprivation but rather freedom from male harassment. Continue reading “Veiled threats?”