Readers react to French veil report
Call by commission to ban Muslim veils in public buildings sparks heated debate.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2010 16:40 GMT
Previous criticism of Islamic veils in Europe has led to protests [GALLO/GETTY]

The recommendation earlier this week by a French parliamentary panel to ban Muslim women from wearing face-covering veils in public buildings has sparked heated debate.

Social networking websites have been awash with voices condemning and praising the French proposal, with some setting up Facebook groups in reaction to the news.

Scores of readers also sent in their views to Al Jazeera English.

Sherpa, from India, was among those who felt the proposal to ban women from wearing the niqab or burqa from schools, hospitals and government buildings, was a "direct attack on Islam".

"If a woman feels comfortable covered up and that's her norm, what right do supposed advanced civilised societies like France have to dictate what a woman does or doesn't do?" she asks.

'Serious misconceptions'

Yusuf, from Brazil said the move sent a clear message to all Islamic countries that the French government "cannot tolerate its Muslim population".

"I am amazed how the French strut around the Middle East on peace and reconciliation missions. When clearly they have serious misconceptions and prejudices against Muslims," he wrote.

"It doesn't seem very liberating to tell a woman what she cannot (or can) wear. Is it supposed to be progressive to tell women they can not wear certain clothing"

Omar, United States

Others felt the proposal, which follows a 2004 ban on Muslim children wearing the hijab in schools, revealed the French to be more critical than Muslim nations when it came to different dress codes.

"I wore a French beret all day and night in Pakistan, in masjids around the world, and no muslim ever objected," Omar from Pakistan wrote.

The panel's description of all-encompassing veils to be "contrary to the values of the republic" triggered further outrage.

"Do they want Muslim women to adopt the "values" of many French or western women ... who choose to publicly pose nude or nearly nude for money or attention?" Ishmael from the US asked.

Others labelled the proposal, which will be put to a vote in the French parliament, a suppression of human rights.

"Sometimes you get astonished, when you think of any western or pro-western country talking about human rights. Human rights in West, means the right to supress muslims and defame Islam by any means," Waheed, from Afghanistan, wrote.

Another reader, Omar from the US, added: "It doesn't seem very liberating to tell a woman what she cannot (or can) wear. Is it supposed to be progressive to tell women they can not wear certain clothing?"

'Creeping Islamisation'

But many readers have agreed with the French recommendation, saying that the niqab has no place in a civilised society.

"Hopefully this will lead to a full public ban. The veils are symptomatic of creeping Islamisation in France and the rest of Europe, which has been disastrous in many respects.

"When I'm a guest in somebody's house (country) I respect them and live by their rules. I don't impose my views."

Alvaro, Spain

"They have no place in open, secular, egalitarian societies. The French are to be commended for taking this step," Jerry Philipson from Canada wrote.

Other viewers took the view that one who lives in a Western country must abide by Western dress codes.

"When I'm a guest in somebody's house (country) I respect them and live by their rules. I don't impose my views, rules, etc. on them," Alvaro from Spain said.

Lila from the US echoed the sentiment: "If I were to live in a Muslim country I would bow to their dress code. I live in a free country and people can practice their Muslim religion without the burqa or the hajib. When you move to another country, be part of that country."

Another drew on history to suggest wearing a face-covering veil is not a necessary part of Islam.

"During the heydays of Islam in Spain (a 1000 years ago!) when Spanish-Arabic medicine and philosophy laid the foundations for the Christian Renaissance, women only loosely covered their heads," Geert Kliphuis from Brussels argued.

Elise from the US doubted wearing the niqab or burqa to be an expression of religion, but instead said it consituted a threat.

"People who will not represent who they are are sneaky in all respects and I personally don't trust them. It is not possible to have a relationship with someone who is untrustworthy, hides themself."

But perhaps Irfan from France should have the last word, who retaliates: "Try smiling when you talk over phone and the person on other will know that you are happy".

Al Jazeera
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