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French burqa ban raises eyebrows

By Adam Troxtell
On April 26, 2011


Europe is usually viewed as a more liberal and religiously tolerant place by Americans, which is why the recent French ban on wearing burqas and niqabs traditional face-covering garments worn by Islamic women  has been met with surprise and controversy.

The law passed by both the lower-house and senate in France went into effect on April 11, and so far two women have reportedly been arrested when they wore veils at a protest in the country that same day. It imposes a $190 fine for wearing the face covers and/or a French citizenship course, and for those forcing a woman to wear the veil, the punishment can include a year in jail along with a $19,000 fine.

While no such ban has been discussed much in the United States, members of the Muslim community in Commerce have spoken out about the bans in Europe. Senior psychology major Sarha Habeeb said she felt the law was out of line.

"I do think it's wrong," she said. "Even when they say it's more about identity, I am still offended. There are other ways to identify people."

Habeeb said the head-scarf and veil send a message in Muslim society and banning them can cause a loss of security for Muslim women.

"I only wear [the head scarf] when I attend mosque," she said. "As a Muslim woman, they are mandatory. Wearing a burqa is optional. Wearing a scarf means the men need to lower their gaze of the woman. A privacy would be taken away, because I would not be able to hide from their gaze."

Junior and former president of the Muslim Student Association Monsuru Gaji said burqas and face covers are on the strict side of the religion.

"It's the extreme," he said. "It's like a woman is supposed to be holy, but anything that reveals a woman's face now it comes to the point where they have to be covered. I think that's the extremists of the religion."

Still, Gaji said the burqa ban did seem like a move against Muslims and labeled it a "smoke screen."

"I would say it's kind of an attack, especially in Germany," he said. "I think the way [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel is addressing the multicultural issue, it's kind of an attack. I thought it was kind of a typical thing that happens when economic problems come up. Instead of addressing the issues with that, they focus on social issues that really don't affect how the government will govern."

Gaji said the head-scarf was not only found in the Muslim religion and is a universal sign of purity.

"If you haven't noticed, the Holy Mother Mary is wearing the exact same thing," he said. "So, in a historical and cultural context, it's like this is a woman of holiness who kept herself pure. So if a woman wears that, that's also what it's supposed to say. If she's covered herself, it's like she is keeping herself protected to God until she is married."

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