Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What I'm reading (France's burqa ban: women are 'effectively under house arrest')

From time to time, I may update this blog with articles that I find are particularly good.
While writing a piece for The Muslim News about the fact that Muslims have been banned from praying in the streets (I'll post the article on this site once it is published), I did a fair bit of research and read a number of articles. However, a fantastic feature article by Angelique Chrisafis in the Guardian caught my eye and I feel that it is definitely worth sharing. I found it particularly interesting because I've written about the niqab ban in the past and I have not yet read a piece with such a detailed update.

In her article, entitled 'France's burqa ban: women are 'effectively under house arrest'', Chrisafis answers some burning questions that I had, such as why the European Court of human rights had not yet overturned the law:
Gilles Devers, a lawyer acting for Ahmas and several other women in niqab, argued punishments were not being handed out because the niqab law contravenes European human rights legislation on personal liberties and freedom of religion.
Chrisafis explains the real implications of the ban for Muslim women:
In April, France introduced a law against covering your face in public. Muslim women in full-face veils, or niqab, are now banned from any public activity including walking down the street, taking a bus, going to the shops or collecting their children from school. French politicians in favour of the ban said they were acting to protect the "gender equality" and "dignity" of women. But five months after the law was introduced, the result is a mixture of confusion and apathy. Muslim groups report a worrying increase in discrimination and verbal and physical violence against women in veils. There have been instances of people in the street taking the law into their hands and trying to rip off full-face veils, of bus drivers refusing to carry women in niqab or of shop-owners trying to bar entry. A few women have taken to wearing bird-flu-style medical masks to keep their face covered; some describe a climate of divisiveness, mistrust and fear. One politician who backed the law said that women still going out in niqab were simply being "provocative". 
Ahmas, 32, French, a divorced single mother of a three-year-old daughter, puts her handbag on the table and takes out a pepper spray and attack alarm. She doesn't live on the high-rise estates but on a quiet street of semi-detached houses. The last time she was attacked in the street a man and woman punched her in front of her daughter, called her a whore and told her to go back to Afghanistan. "My quality of life has seriously deteriorated since the ban. In my head, I have to prepare for war every time I step outside, prepare to come up against people who want to put a bullet in my head. The politicians claimed they were liberating us; what they've done is to exclude us from the social sphere. Before this law, I never asked myself whether I'd be able to make it to a cafe or collect documents from a town hall. One politician in favour of the ban said niqabs were 'walking prisons'. Well, that's exactly where we've been stuck by this law."...
Before the law, Stephanie would often be called names like "Batman, Zorro, or Ninja" in the street – often by pensioners. Now people favour swear words or sexual insults. She wants to work with children, but despite having a degree in theology, she can't find a job.
She also enlightens us as to some very interesting news:
Rachid Nekkaz, a French property developer, explains why his association, Don't Touch my Constitution, was the only group to stage high-profile protests when the law came into force – he backed Ahmas's birthday-cake stunt and has set up a ¤1m fund to pay any fines over the niqab. His next, and most radical, protest action will be this Thursday, when his association announces its plans to field a woman in niqab for president in 2012.
This really is simply a brief glimpse into the article and I would urge you to read the full piece when you get the time: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/19/battle-for-the-burqa?

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