Lawmakers seek debate on 'degrading' burkas
French lawmakers want a national commission to be set up to look into the growing numbers of women in France who wear the burka.Paris – A group of French lawmakers want a national commission to be set up to look into the growing numbers of women in France who wear the burka, the head-to-toe Islamic veil.
Communist MP Andre Gerin is spearheading the drive for a parliamentary panel to issue recommendations on ways to curb the wearing of the burka which he describes as a "prison" and "degrading" for women.
"Today, in many city neighbourhoods, we see several Muslim women wearing the burka, which covers and fully envelops the body and the head, like a moving prison, or the niqab which allows only the eyes to be shown," said Gerin on Wednesday.
The MP is also mayor of the southern city of Venissieux, home to a large north African immigrant population, where the sight of covered women has become commonplace.
"We find it intolerable to see images of these imprisoned women when they come from Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. They are totally unacceptable on the territory of the French republic," Gerin wrote in a text outlining his proposal.
His proposal is backed by 58 MPs, many of whom are from President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party, and is expected to come up for a vote in the National Assembly.
France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, passed a law in 2004 forbidding students from wearing veils and other religious symbols in state schools as part of the government's drive to defend secularism.
Last year, the top administrative court, the State Council, refused to grant French citizenship to a Moroccan woman on the grounds that her Muslim practices were incompatible with French laws on secularism and gender equality.
The 32-year-old woman, who had been living in France since 2000, wore the burka.
A prominent women's rights group came out in favour of the proposal, saying the burka was "a symbol of women's oppression" and that there should be a national debate on whether it should be allowed in public places.
"We shouldn't be afraid to talk about it," said Sihem Habchi, head of Ni Putes, Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissive), a group created to help women living in France's rundown, largely-Muslim suburbs.
Paris Mosque rector Dalil Boubakeur also supported the proposal for a commission of deputies "on the condition that they listen to what the experts on Islam have to say" on the issue.
The growing number of women wearing the burka in France is a sign that "some fundamentalist trends are gaining ground," Boubakeur told Le Parisien newspaper.
If the lower house agrees to set up the commission, it would draft a report to be released no later than November 30, said Gerin.
AFP / Expatica