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Que se cache t-il sous la Burka ?

What's under the Burka?

By Deborah Berlioz

On 22nd June in Versailles, Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the burka would no longer be “welcome on French territory”:
“The issue of the Burka is not a religious one but one of freedom, of a woman’s dignity. It is a symbol of servitude, a symbol of abasement.”
The French President has since ignited furious debate on the subject with his proposal for a six month parliamentary enquiry in order to decide whether to legislate against the wearing of the burka on French soil.
Nicolas Sarkozy, Versailles
Nicolas Sarkozy, Versailles
The Burka (an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions for the purpose of cloaking the entire body) is now the subject of heated discussion in France as it concerns the public sector and draws attention to the ever constant issue of integration. If we follow Dalil Boubakeur’s, rector of the Paris Mosque, opinion, the issue should not be considered a religious one as the Burka is not mentioned in any part of the Koran. It is, rather, a political statement that has only appeared relatively recently in France. One way or the other, the fact is that the Burka is now steadily infiltrating neighborhoods in which, according to the anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, “the Salafist argument is having an increasingly strong influence amongst the youths.”(“L’Humanite” 23rd June 2009). At the route of this movement, lies the resurgence of Salafism, a radical Islamic branch.

Importantly, the problem is not only a French one - Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, the Egyptian minister of religious affairs, has been trying to curb the increasing influence within his country. He has stated his wish to eradicate the wearing of the Burka which he considers un-Islamic: “certain Muslims are committing a fundamental mistake in focusing on outer appearance and the superficial aspects, and in doing so are creating a deformed image of Islam”. In 2008, Egypt’s Minister of Health also decided to forbid the wearing of the Burka amongst nurses of state hospitals, believing the garment to be against hygiene regulations generally required in hospitals.
Femme portant le voile intégral

    Women wearing the burka

The issue has since spread throughout France. A large number of women are now adopting the garment in a show of cultural and religious unity and support, wishing to be immediately identified as Muslim. In the outskirts an increasing number of young girls have also taken to the Burka as a means of avoiding “unwanted attention”. Though many of them will justify their decision by presenting the dubious argument that it is a form of liberation, that in doing so they are no longer judged by their appearance but by their mind, many more will find objection, seeing it as voluntary submission to a life of abasement that other women will not have had the liberty to choose for themselves but will have had inflicted on them.
Whilst fully defending their right to dress however they see fit in a country that has always prided itself on its human rights, one must realize that the garment also functions as a further barrier in the bid to cultural and religious integration in France impeding, as it does, communication. As Jack Straw stated in 2006 “the Burka is a visible declaration of separation and difference” (He declared himself to be against the wearing of the Burka on British territory).

The problems in dealing with this stem from the fact that there are two very different groups of women wearing the Burka in France at the moment: those who do so by choice as a sign of religious and cultural expression (or, as some say, as a means of political provocation) and those who have it inflicted upon them.
It is important to realize, however, that though some undoubtedly do so voluntarily, the Burka remains for many a symbol of a backwards inequality amongst men and women and the suffering that the latter continue to endure. Sihem Habchi, the president of the feminist movement “Ni putes ni soumises” ( neither wanton nor submissive), rages against the wearing of the burka in France. In her latest news release for the AFP (French press association) she says that the only thing she sees in the Burka is “a symbol of the oppression of women by those fighting against integration and equality of the sexes”. She strongly believes that “France has a duty to the women who continue to fight for their basic human rights” in countries such as Iran. She states quite firmly that the issue of the burka is in no way linked to one’s right to religious freedom and expression.
Sihem Habchi
                                                                                                                           Sihem Habchi
By enforcing the Burka under the guise of religious necessity, fundamentalist factions are not only robbing those women who do not freely choose to wear it of their own freedom, but are also instrumental in many people’s increasingly negative perception of the religion.
As a result, it is not only women’s rights that are at stake but, equally importantly, tolerance and peace amongst France’s many citizens. For this reason we should view the up-coming parliamentary investigation with optimism, as an opportunity to debate, to meet the young women who wear the burka and to inform ourselves and hopefully find answers to the problem.
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09/04/2011 - desrjkl said :

The French can not wear anything covering their faces jajajaj seems that they are under a dictatorship.

09/04/2011 - deliofjf said :

Les Français ne peuvent pas porter n'importe quoi couvrir leur visage jajajaj semble qu'ils sont sous une dictature.

09/04/2011 - delroier said :

Conscient, cette loi affecte également le français, pas distrait.
respecter les différentes cultures.
préjuge pas de.
Devraient consulter les touchés

cette loi viole les droits des peuples, les religions, les cultures, les Français.

23/04/2010 - patriciaconnell said :

A lunatic shouted at me a few days ago in London. He told me to go back to my country (I was driving a car) because French people did not like muslims and British people did not want them here because of what we are trying to do in France about the Burka. Have you experienced anything like it?
Of course, I told him in my poshest English accent what he could do...

07/01/2010 - oummeriam said :

C'est vraiment de la poussière aux yeux que tente de jeter le gouvernement français aux visages des français, en leur faisant penser à ces broutilles tandis que les vrais problèmes ne sont pas régler. Mais le pire c'est que ca marche !
C'est de l'ingérence dans la vie des gens; s'il elle veut sortir couverte de la tête au pied ce n'est pas mon problème. Je suis choqué que dans ce pays de liberté, on utilise de tel moyen pour empêche des femmes de se vêtir telle qu'elle le souhaite. Ca c'est de la discrimination ! Et ce n'est pas parce que ca ne plait pas à d'autre qu'on devrait l'interdir, c'est vraiment choquant. Dans des pays "moyennageux" comme c'est souvent dit, telle que l'Égypte ou le Maroc qui sont des pays musulman les femmes expatriées s'habille comme elle le souhaite, je le sais bien je suis une femme expatrié en Égypte, et personne ne me force à mettre la burqa, le voile intégrale ou autre, je peut sortir en short, mini jupe et débardeur !! et dans le pays des droits de la femmes, pays LAIQ, vous allez les forcés à changer leur tenu vestimentaires ???!! ou est la logique ??? La laïcité ne veut pas dire le combat des religions, il faudrait revoir vos définitions ! laïcité ne veut pas dire athéisme ! Quand est-ce que le français lambda va se réveiller, quand bien même il n'est pas d'accord avec la burqa, il devrai s'opposer à se type d'ingérence de l'état, ca sera quoi la prochaine fois ?? Une fois qu'on aura plus rien à tirer du musulman ? ca sera qui ? Affaire à suivre ....

01/10/2009 - nicoyatch said :

franchement de quoi je me mele moi je suis francais et la liberte c l expression en france donc elle s exprime avec la burqua c leur droit sa leur fe plaisir allah es grand et vous des ignorant dedicace aux musulman ki se crois musulman en disant ke la burka c pas l islam apprend ta religion aux lieu de traiter avec les mecreant

17/07/2009 - lweens said :

I have read the above comment and totally agree with it. I am currently living in London and I have noticed a marked increase in muslim women wearing the Niqab out, supposedly, of religious belief.

I think it is more of a political statement than a religious one, as this started shortly after there were objections of a teacher wearing it while teaching. I think it is to say I am different and I am not prepared to integrate myself with the English community. England is extremely tolerant and allows muslim women to wear the Hijab and if you want to state that you are a muslim this is totally fine but wearing the Burga is a step too far. Personally I could not relate/speak to a person who has her face hidden. I do not express myself with speech only but also with body language and the expression on your face can say a lot. I was told that the eyes are the doors to the soul. What a lot of rubbish.

17/07/2009 - alexandra.chevrier said :

Fully agree!

17/07/2009 - laurencechat said :

I am absolutely and totally against this kind of disguise which supposedly represent the islamic religion! These people can enforce this appearance in their own country if they want to and I only hope that our western countries and head of countries will be strong and enforce a ban on anyone displaying this mascarade. We leave in democratic, laic and christian countries where women are respected and it would be unacceptable to tolerate this disguise belonging to the dark ages which belittle women! It is pure provocation indeed. I just want to reiterate: if these people want to wear this mascarade, they need not to be accepted in the western world especially in France which is my dear country.


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