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France’s Burqa Ban

France’s new ban of Islamic veils like burqas and niqabs will take effect on Monday, following the six month period during which people were informed of the possible penalties.

What Does the Ban Include?

The now-forbidden garments include the burqa, which is a full-body covering with a mesh to cover the face, as well as the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes.

The hijab and the chador, are not banned by the law. Both of these garments leave the face fully visible. The hijab covers the hair and neck, while the chador covers only the body.

A statement by the Interior Ministry explained: “The ban does not target the wearing of a headscarf, head gear, scarf or glasses, as long as the accessories do not prevent the person from being identified.”

Breaking of the law can lead to a fine of $190 or 150 euros. A public service can also be demanded as part of the penalty, or as an alternative to the fine. Forcing a woman to wear a burqa will be punishable by a year in prison as well as a 30,000 euro ($43,400) fine, while forcing a minor to wear one will result in a two-year prison sentence and a fine of 60,000 euros.

Why the Ban?

The law has been passed as a safety measure, as there are significant security risks in allowing a person’s face to be completely covered in public, as well as in an effort to promote equality between the sexes. According to the government, the pressure to don such garments is “a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil.”

Certainly, the ban has bred numerous debates over religious autonomy.

Support and Opposition

The French Constitutional Council believes that since the law does not impose unrealistic penalties or restrain the exercise of religion in a house of worship, it “conforms to the Constitution.”

“Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community,” the government continued, “ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place.”

82% of people polled supported the ban, while 17% did not. Interestingly, Germany, Britain and Spain were major backers of the ban, while two out of three Americans opposed it.

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