France’s hardline immigration minister has launched a fresh demand to ban the burkha – decribed by president Nicolas Sarkozy a sign of “subservience and debasement”. Eric Besson said the Islamic full head and body covers were “unacceptable” and not welcome in France.
His demand for a total ban comes after 58 French MPs called last June for a public inquiry on whether it should be illegal for women to hide their faces in public. Mr Sazkozy backed the move, saying at the time: “This garment makes women prisoners and deprives them of their identity. I say solemnly that they are not welcome on the territory of the French Republic.” Women’s rights groups and Left-wing MPs went even further, describing the item as a “walking coffin” and and a “mobile prison”.
Earlier this year Mr Besson said he though a law banning burkhas and niqabs would only “create tensions”. But he has now said he wants Islamic garments which cover the face – worn by an estimated 2,000 women in France – outlawed everywhere. He said yesterday: “I recognise that my views have now evolved. The burkha is unacceptable and contrary to the principles of national identity, of sexual equality and of the French Republic.”
Left-wing MP Andre Gerin, who is heading the government commission on burkhas and niqabs, added: “We find it intolerable to see images of these imprisoned women when they come from Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. They are totally unacceptable on the territory of the French Republic.”
Update: Over at his Telegraph blog we find Ed West responding with a post entitled “France’s immigration minister is wrong to want to ban the burka and niqab“, which had me doing a double-take. But don’t worry, Ed hasn’t suddenly come over all liberal. His reply to Gerin’s point about veiled women being unacceptable in France is:
“Well, don’t let them come, then, is the obvious answer. Ultimately Islamic dress has spread in France, England and elsewhere only because unrestrained immigration has changed the dynamic of urban life, turning mixed areas into Muslim-only ghettos where French or English culture does not intrude.”