“Can the islamophobia be any more transparent? The French government mandates masks but still bans the burqa.”
Rabat – The gradual lifting of COVID-19 lockdown measures in France comes under the mandated condition that everyone in France wears a mask in public — a new law that is reigniting controversy around the country’s banned religious coverings.
“Can the islamophobia be any more transparent? The French government mandates masks but still bans the burqa,” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director over social media.
The French minister of interior confirmed that violators of the burqa and niqab ban will be subject to a fine of up to €150 and required to take a course on what it means to be “a good French citizen.”
Advocates in favor of women’s right to choose whether or not they wear such religious garments call the paradox “ironic” and “wrong,” while French authorities classify the decision as a protective measure.
While France has long claimed it is protecting women’s freedoms and pursuing a feminist agenda, critics and human rights activists have rallied in support of religious freedom, arguing that the laws enforce bigotry and marginalize Muslim women who choose to wear face coverings.
The issue was also considered problematic given that women choosing to wear a burqa or niqab were excluded from the male-led debate, resulting in restrictions that were deemed a proud representation of liberal French values.
In addition to boasting their support for women’s freedom of sexual expression and self-proclaimed progressive French social norms, burqa and niqab opposers also cite the inability to clearly identify a person as a security risk.
Now, with a ban on face coverings enforced, advocates are questioning the integrity of the French president’s claim that such coverings are an issue of “liberty and women’s dignity” rather than a “religious problem.”
“The republic lives with its face uncovered,” said the French government in recent debates surrounding the issue of religious coverings.
“Muslims see this irony very clearly,” Karima Mondon, a high school teacher in Lyon, told the Washington Post.
The law banning women from wearing a burqa or niqab in public came into effect in April of 2011. France has repeatedly pushed demonstrated secular values, banning headscarves, Christian crosses, and Jewish yarmulke in schools. Observant Muslim women have also been prohibited from wearing the full-body-covering burkini swimsuit.