France moves closer to banning full Muslim veil
LA VERRIERE, France – The man she married is French, her four children were born in France and she speaks French with only a trace of her native Arabic tongue. Faiza Silmi contends her clothes — a head-to-toe robe and filmy tissue covering her face — are the reason France has denied her citizenship in her adopted land.
The 32-year-old Moroccan may soon be facing an even fiercer blow. A top French lawmaker submitted a draft law this week that would ban such Islamic dress anywhere in public, a measure that would set a European precedent and trap thousands of women between their religious convictions and the law of the land.
"They say I'm too attached to my religion," Silmi told The Associated Press at an empty restaurant near her home southwest of Paris, her large eyes peering from a slit in her veil. "Lots of Christians live in Morocco and we don't make them wear scarves."
Unlike Muslim headscarves, full-body, face-covering robes are a rare sight in the streets of France, home to an estimated 5 million Muslims, the largest such population in western Europe. France's main Muslim leaders have declared that Islam does not require women to cover their faces with niqabs or burqas.
In a country whose national emblem is Marianne, a bare-chested woman, there is deepening concern over the all-encompassing garb, often black or brown and worn with gloves, attire typical in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Here, it is widely viewed as a gateway to radical Islam, an attack on gender equality and other French values, and a gnawing away at the nation's secular foundation.
President Nicolas Sarkozy opened the door to a possible ban in June, telling a parliament session in Versailles that such dress "is not welcome" in France. A parliamentary panel set to work in July on a six-month mission gathering information on the garments.
On Tuesday, the head of Sarkozy's conservative UMP party in parliament's lower house, Jean-Francois Cope, jumped the gun before the panel's report was finished, and filed draft legislation on a ban. "No one may, in spaces open to the public and on public streets, wear a garment or an accessory that has the effect of hiding the face," the draft text reads.
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I don't see this ending well.