French Parliament Debates Burqa Ban

Toward the end of last month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed Parliament, stating his position on burqas. He said the face-covering, body-length Muslim veils are an unacceptable symbol of “enslavement,” and that it’s not a religious issue, but simply a “sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women.”

This discussion has resulted in threats from Muslim groups outside of France, but Parliament hasn’t made a decision on the matter just yet. A committee held its first meeting today, and Jean-Francois Cope, the head of the governing conservative party UMP, suggested a two-stage ban of burqas. Meaning there would be “six months to a year of dialogue, explanation, and warnings” before the ban would go into effect.Cope reiterated Sarkozy’s statement that the debate is political, not religious, saying that the veils threaten security and public order because they conceal the wearer’s identity. But how is the debate not religious if it is a part of some women’s religion to cover themselves? Or is this a case where the government has to get involved because women seemingly don’t have the power to effect change within that religion themselves? [AP]