France and the Burqa

A CNN article here discusses a man who was denied citizenship in France because his French wife wears a burqa. The article makes it sound like he’s forcing her to do it, but that’s never stated clearly. The Immigration Minister’s justification for this action and the impending law is interesting:

Foreigners may become French citizens if they marry French nationals and meet certain criteria, including integrating well in French society and having “good morality,” Besson said. It is on the criteria of morality that the man’s citizenship request was denied, Besson said.

“This individual imposes the full veil upon his wife, does not allow her the freedom to go and come as she pleases, and bans her from going out with her face unveiled, and rejects the principles of secularism and equality between man and woman,” Besson said he told President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Apparently a Moroccan woman trying to naturalize in 2008 was denied citizenship for wearing a burqa as well. In that case the government seems to blame the woman for not respecting France’s principles of equality. Her French husband, who requested she wear the burqa, hasn’t faced any kind of sanction, but when the new law comes into effect perhaps that will change.

These “principles of secularism” seem to me to be the primary motivator in this campaign, since a similar 2004 law bans simple head scarves in public schools as well as crucifixes, Sikh turbans, and kippas. None of these are related to the inequality of the sexes.

57% of French citizens support these laws, though, and it’s their prerogative. I guess I just find it disheartening to see religious expression legislated against like this.


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