On Wednesday, French lawmakers introduced a law to the Cabinet that would ban Muslim women from wearing veils in public. Protests, and the first instance of "burka rage" followed soon after.
Today, President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Cabinet: "Citizenship should be experienced with an uncovered face. There can be no other solution but a ban in all public places." He has proposed a draft law, which would require all Muslim women to remove their veils in public, or face a $185 fine. Some women might even be asked to participate in "citizenship classes." The bill does, however, create a new offense: "Inciting to hide the face." Under the proposed law, anyone forcing a woman to wear a veil would be charged with a far higher fine ($18,555) and could even be jailed. Sarkozy calls the bill, which will go to parliament in July, the first steps on a "just path," and urged lawmakers to recognize their "moral responsibility." A similar bill is being considered in Quebec, which could deny public services (including health care and education) to women wearing veils.
But many French Muslim women don't welcome the ban. On Tuesday, six women met with reporters to talk about the ban, and express their displeasure at Sarkozy's new measure. Although most of them say they wouldn't leave France if the ban is approved, they do take issue with the implications of the law. "The are giving people the right to attack us," said one woman. "To tell a sister you can't wear this veil is to say you can't practice your religion," said another.
While she probably wasn't speaking of physical attacks, that is exactly what happened over the weekend in what police are calling the first case of "burka rage." The Telegraph reports:
A 26-year-old Muslim convert was walking through the store in Trignac, near Nantes, in the western Loire-Atlantique region, when she overhead the woman lawyer making "snide remarks about her black burka". A police officer close to the case said: "The lawyer said she was not happy seeing a fellow shopper wearing a veil and wanted the ban introduced as soon as possible."
The older woman allegedly grabbed her veil, ripping it off her face. The fight then became very physical, with the daughter of the older, veil-hating woman joining in. All three women were arrested and brought in for questioning.