French niqab law contradicts freedom: Iraq's Sadr
Niqabs, the full-face veils worn by conservative Muslim women, are not required by Islam but banning them by law is an affront to liberty, radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Thursday.
His remarks come in response to a draconian new law in France, implemented on Monday, that bars women from wearing the niqab or burka, a head-to-toe body covering, in the street, public gardens, shops and government buildings.
"According to Muslim law, it is not an obligation to wear the niqab, but to ban it by law is a repression of freedoms," Sadr said in a statement issued in his hometown of Najaf.
"Forcing women to wear the niqab, or not to wear it, are both unacceptable," added the cleric, who is currently based in Iran ostensibly to further his religious studies.
Sadr did, however, categorically back the wearing of the hijab, the Islamic headscarf, saying: "This is a basic obligation of the religion, and no one can ban it."
"Would the Western infidels accept it if their daughters living in our (Muslim) countries were forced to wear the niqab? That is unjust," he said.
He called on "all Muslim sisters to work together to overturn this decision."
The headscarf, like all other overt religious symbols, is banned in schools across France as a result of a March 2004 law.
© 2011 AFP