French burka ban lifts veil of division

Emma-Kate Symons, 24/4/10

A saviour of women, or rank Islamophobe and racist? By pushing for a total ban on the burka, or full Islamic veil, in all public places, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is provoking outrage in the political establishment while winning the backing of the electorate and the far-right. Citing the republican value of equality, France will go further than any European country in outlawing head covering that conceals the face and an individual’s identity. The target is what is known as the burka in France, but usually refers to the niqab, or Islamic head-to-toe covering for women leaving only slits for eyes. “This is about an attack on women’s dignity, and it is not acceptable to French society,” said Mr Sarkozy’s spokesman and Education Minister, Luc Chatel. Under the law due to be rushed through parliament next month, the full veil will be forbidden everywhere from schools and town halls to the streets.