France’s lower house has voted to ban women from wearing full-face veils (the burka and the niqab) in public places. The measure still has to pass the upper house and will face a constitutional challenge. But the strength of the majority was startling: parliament voted 335-1 in favour. Even counting for over 200 abstentions, that is quite a statement.
Liberal opinion here in Britain is generally that a burka ban is intolerant and borderline racist. It is pointed out that only about 2,000 women in France (of a Muslim population of 5m) wear the most restrictive face-covering versions of Islamic garb covered by the law. Liberal critics say that it is not upto the state to legislate what women should wear, and that the new law panders to the French far right.
I am not sure what, I think – which is why I’m not going to write a newspaper column about it. But, at the least, I think the issues are more complicated than the standard liberal reaction allows. Read more