The burqa ban in France was in full force on April 11th, avidly supported by Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France. With many lauding the decision and others attacking it as a human rights violation, there is no consensus on whether the burqa/niqab ban is something that should be enforced. On one hand, supporters of the burqa/niqab ban state that if they were to travel to Saudi Arabia and its surrounding countries, they must adhere to the policies and rules of those nations - and that includes wearing gender-specific garments. Therefore, many feel that if they must respect culture in conservative Muslim countries, then the niqab/burqa (a symbol of backwardness for many French feminists) is unwelcome on French soil because it defies much of French culture. Of course, we must examine French history and realize the importance of the split between state and religion for its people.
Many police officers have reported that it is not their first priority to target burqa/niqab-wearing women, and that they have other priorities to attend to in regards to French security. Despite this, two arrests were made on Monday as Kenza Drider and another niqab-wearing woman were arrested in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in an attempt to protest the ban. The women could face fines of 150 Euros as a result.
In reality, the percentage of women who wear a full face veil in France is so small. Out of France's burgeoning population, there are less than 2,000 women who wear a full-face veil.
What about the burqa and niqab in Canada?
Last week, Schema's Michelle Da Silva interviewed Farzana Hassan, the past president of the Muslim Canadian Congress for the Georgia Straight.
An Ontario-based author, educator, and women's-rights activist thinks that there should be laws in Canada preventing teachers from wearing burqas in the classroom. "In a public-school environment, how is a woman going to teach in a burqa?" Farzana Hassan asked during a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.
"If there are young boys there, for example, she's not going to be taking her veil off. Don't they have the right to know who they're interacting with? And don't they have the right to even look at the face of the teacher?"
Farzana Hassan will be speaking at UBC's Chan Center as a part of the Laurier Institution's Speaker Series. Find out more details and ticket information by visiting the website at thelaurier.ca.