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Christina Free

Fringe presidential bid no threat to French burqa ban

President Jacques Chirac implemented the French law banning conspicuous religious symbols - such as the hijab or the dastar (the Sikh turban) - in France’s public primary and secondary schools. In September 2010 France’s Senate passed legislation which banned identity-concealing facial wear, including masks, helmets, balaclavas, niqabs, burqas and other veils in pubic places. Although President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that the bill is intended to reinforce gender equality, the dignity of women and state security - as well as the maintenance of France’s secular values - it has also brought significant controversy.Shortly after the bill was passed, Kenza Drider – a Muslim woman – vowed to wear a full-face veil in spite of the new law, saying she would “prefer to flirt with arrest rather than bow to an injustice.”Drider maintains the same position as she did last year. On Thursday, 22 September, 2011, Drider declared her candidacy for the French presidency. She and her followers claim the ban on face-covering headwear contravenes fundamental rights, and that women who hide their faces stand for choice, not submission. During her speech she contended, “This is a law which puts us under house arrest,” as she claims that many – such as herself – choose to stay at home rather than remove their face veils.While Drider is certainly free to publicly proclaim her objection to the ban, the very notion that this stance alone might constitute a presidential platform is laughable.It is unlikely that Drider will find enough support to effect substantive change. When the Senate voted on the bill, the law passed by a 246-to-1 margin; the French public, too, largely supports the ban. Algerian-born former housing minister Fadela Amara, among others, has called the burka “a kind of tomb, a horror for those trapped in it,” adding, “The burka… Read More