Spain and France: Divergences Concerning the Full Veil Ban

Source: FSSPX News

In Spain, on July 20, the chamber of deputies, with 186 votes against 162, dismissed the bill submitted by the right opposition on the interdiction to wear the full veil in public places.  Spanish senators had, however, in June, passed a motion pressing José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's socialist government to forbid the burqa (a veil that hides the eyes) in public places.

Spanish Minister of Justice Francisco Caamaño, is quoted by the AFP as also declaring towards the end of June that the government was thinking of including in a future law on “freedom of religion” measures to restrict the use of the full veil in public places.  As the newspaper Le Monde explains in its July 20th online edition, the subject gives rise to numerous debates within the socialist government, “divided between defending the equality between men and women” and “respect for cultures”.

It is a debate that several Spanish communes have already settled, among others, that of Coin (21,000 inhabitants), in Andalusia, to the south of the country, where, on June 28, the municipal council, which is mostly socialist, approved the interdiction of the niqab (a veil that leaves the eyes exposed) in its public places.  This includes all municipal buildings, schools and sports centers in the city.

A total of nine Spanish cities, most of them situated in Catalonia (in the northeast of the country), where the population of Muslim immigrants is more significant than elsewhere, have forbidden the burqa in public municipal places.  The Socialist mayor of Barcelona announced that he would soon be signing a municipal order along these lines, for reasons of security and “common sense”, according to AFP reports.  A decision of the Catholic Church contests this in the name of the religious liberty in the Spanish Constitution:  “Persons and institutions have the right to manifest their belief, so long as they respect the public order”.

In France, the bill destined to ban the full veil in public places was passed on July 13 by the National Assembly.  The opposing party having chosen not to take part in the vote, the bill was passed with 335 votes for and one against.  In accordance with the French Constitution, the bill must now be examined by the Senate this coming September.  If approved, the burqa will be totally banned on the “public ways”, that is, on the street, as well as in “the places open to the public or assigned to a public service”.  Article 1 stipulates that “none may, in a public place, wear a garb destined to hide his face”.  The text anticipates a 150 euro fine, which can be replaced by or added to a “community service”.

This law also punishes any person who imposes the full veil on a woman by “threats, violence, constraint, abuse of authority or abuse of power”.  The penalty for such will be a year in prison and a 30,000 euro fine, which sanction will be doubled if the girl is a minor.  On April 21, when the upcoming bill was announced, the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, had clarified that wearing the full veil is not “a problem in the order of religion”, but an “attack on the woman's dignity”.  (Sources: apic/AFP/Le Monde – DICI n°219, July 24, 2010)