Apparently, freedom of expression or religion is overrated when it comes to wearing face-covering veils in French public spaces. The ban on the burqa or the niqab passed today in the National Assembly with an overwhelming majority (335-1), with about 241 members of the Socialist and Communist parties abstaining from from the vote, mainly as they did not know how to respond to the bill. Even with just seven articles, there is a lot about the ban that seems it is a diversionary tactic than one that is about real substance.
What doesn’t make sense about the full burqa ban in France is that none of the arguments supporting it go beyond discrimination- of the Muslim community and of people living in the banlieues. Another reason the ban is supported is that only about 1,900 women among France’s five to six million Muslims wear a veil. But does the number really matter when considering a human rights issue? Furthermore, bans such as these just exasperate the situation when it comes to immigrant relations, a growing problem in many of the Western European nations.
In other words, the ban is going to achieve exactly the opposite of its intentions. Rather than integrating the Muslim community, the ban will alienate this already stigmatized group, allowing for fundamentalists to have a recruiting field day. Religion is being equated with extremist ideology, not really taking into account the changing nature of French democracy (one with immigrants also influencing legislation) but rather clinging to the past. France needs to look beyond immediate popularity (with 8/10 people supporting the bill) and assess the long-term consequences.