Thursday, October 7, 2010

France, the Burka Ban, and the Alleged "Roma File"

First the "Burka Ban"
Readers will recall previous discussions about French efforts to ban the public wearing of face-covering Islamic veils. You'll remember that the French National Assembly and the Senate passed a law to that effect earlier this year. The law wasn't applied because the Constitutional Court needed to determine whether it was constitutional.

Well, the Court handed down its decision today and it decided that the law is constitutional. The only caveat it stated was that it may not be legal to prevent such face covering veils within mosques (even if the mosques are open to the public). The penalty for breaking the law is a $200 fine for wearing one and a $42,000 fine for forcing someone to wear one.

The next step is to challenge the law in the European Court of Human Rights. The law is apparently very careful not to use any gender or specific references.

And Second, the "Roma File"
Le Monde's reported today that the Gendarmerie has been keeping a secret file, called MENS (Minorites Ethniques Non Sedentarisee or Non Sendentary Ethnic Minorities). The Guardian has a corresponding story on this. The file may be aptly named. It's unclear how recently it has been used (the article says that the Ministry of the Interior was "not aware" of a file of that name post the 1990s) but certainly, with France's recent expulsion of Roma, the discovery of such a file is extremely alarming. Roma advocates have filed a suit because such files are illegal in France (for rather obvious reasons). As the article points out, "this is not 1940."

It's clear that French policy in this area is more than problematic. It will be worth watching what happens, whether this file really does exist, what the domestic and international reaction is, and of course how this will affect President Sarkozy. His approval ratings are plummeting.


  1. Re: the Niqab Ban

    Syrian schools, as well as Al-Azhar in Egypt, banned the Niqab on their grounds. Al-Azhar heads gave a thumbs up to the French law.

    Why isn't the fact that non-Gulf states pushing back on the Niqab (can also be read as pushing back on the wider Salafi movement) getting much press?

  2. Anon--I didn't know about that so thanks for your comment. As to why it's not getting coveragee, I don't know.