French Niqab Ban Sparks Immediate Protests
An apocryphal story about American broadcast journalist Barbara Walters claims that some years before US involvement in the Afghan conflict she was shocked to discover that women in Kabul customarily walked some paces behind their husbands.
She was astonished to learn they still do so despite the overthrow of the Taliban. ‘Why?’ she demanded of one woman on a return visit. “Landmines!” retorted her interviewee.
I once spotted a large, square-shouldered figure dressed from head to toe in full female Muslim dress shopping at the Prestwich, North Manchester branch of Tesco, a major U.K. supermarket. I still berate myself for not involving the police as the incident occurred in one of the city’s most densely populated Jewish areas where there had been attacks on Jews by Muslims - all this during a period of terrorism and bank robberies by men disguised in female Muslim garb.
So I was pleased to learn that from today France has outlawed the wearing of the niqab – the full-face veil - in public, enforcing the decision it had made to ban them last year. The new ruling faced immediate challenges and two fully-veiled women were detained by police in a protest outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
While France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population of 5-6M, fewer than 2,000 women had previously warn the niqab in public. But the ban also applies to foreigners visiting France, with those forcing others to wear the veil facing much stiffer penalties than the wearers. Fines will range from 150 Euros for niqab wearers to 12 months in prison and a fine of 30,000 Euros for those forcing others to wear them. The figures double if the person compelled to wear the veil is a minor.
Police have been told they may not forcibly seize the veils but that offenders may be taken to police stations to have their identities confirmed.
Meanwhile some news reports claim that a Muslim property dealer has set aside a fund of about $2.8M to help women fight the ban in France but that there have been further moves in Belgium, The Netherlands and Canada to restrict the wearing of veils in public.