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Rationalizing the veil
French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened up a can of feisty worms when he said the burqa is "a sign of subservience." Arab News asks scholars what they think the burqa signifies.
July 12, 2009 1:07 by Dana El Baltaji
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent call for a parliamentary commission to look into whether the burqa should be banned in public has once again raised a contentious issue.
Calling the burqa worn by some Muslim women “a sign of subservience”, the French leader dismissed the idea that he was attacking Islam.
“We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity,” Sarkozy told the Parliament in a major policy speech that touched on myriad issues. “That is not the idea that the French republic has of women’s dignity.”
Back in Saudi Arabia, French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bertrand Besancenot recently issued written statements to Arab News commenting on what Sarkozy said.
He said the parliamentary commission, which began hearings on Wednesday, consists of MPs from different political parties that are looking into whether the face veil (niqab) is socially acceptable.
Besancenot said the niqab was a “marginal” phenomenon in France, but that its use was increasing and disrupting the traditional social and cultural values of France.