In France, they really don’t like any type of head coverings. After decades of one headscarf affair after another, where generations of young women who wear hijab are forced to stop their education (way to go in liberating women, France), things got serious when France woke up in recent years to the threat of illegal polygamous niqabis and their “creeping Shariah.”
To counter the 367 burqa-clad women (this is a real number, I kid you not) in France in 2009 (which must mean millions in 2015, of course), the French government brought out its big guns with a clear message: no more niqab! This most recent law, passed by the French senate, will go in to effect on April 11th .
And in case you still haven’t figured out that covering you head is against Camembert, baguettes, Monet and ALL THAT IS FRENCH, the government has set up a handy communications campaign to drive the point home. This campaign is called “La Republique se vit à visage découvert” (or “The Republic is lived openly”- a play on words as “à visage découvert” literally means “an uncovered face”) and besides tens of thousands of posters and flyers (in English and Arabic for travelers), the government has also set up a website to make sure that even the 2.0 generation understands that that this is no ordinary discrimination.
LePost.fr, which spoke with the Prime Minister’s office, was told that the site is “very descriptive” and includes a summary of the law as well as a “description of places where the law will be applied, like the car, for example. (Remember that one of Lies Hebbadj’s alleged co-wives was caught DWN: Driving While Niqabi).” Furthermore, the PM’s office contends that the site isn’t just for people who hide their faces but also those who are confronted with face-hiders.
Several exceptions are made to the law: for certain types of workplaces (because you know welders need to cover their faces), for people playing sports where their faces need to be covered, and for religious services provided that the religious leader present is ok with covered faces.
The most disturbing part of the communications campaign, other than wasting millions of taxpayers’ euros and killing trees for tens of thousands of posters and pamphlets for what is essentially right-wing propaganda, is the use of Marianne, a highly-charged symbol of French democracy, in yet another attempt to reinterpret the laws of 1882 and 1905 and legislate discrimination against Muslims in the framework of so-called secularism. One blogger has even said that it is strangely reminiscent of the anti-Jewish poster campaigns of the Occupation.
So what happens if you get caught with your face covered? Note that the website states that forcing someone to uncover their face is “absolutely forbidden,” but you still can be fined 150€ or forced to take a “citizenship class.” The website continues that the citizenship classes are to remind people about the “values of the French Republic like equality and respect for human dignity.” Because we all know that human dignity and respect are the exclusive domain of the French state and thus incompatible with any piece of clothing above the shoulders.
In case you haven’t yet figured out yet, this is serious biznass: anyone found to have forced someone to “cover up”–because we all know women who wear head coverings are usually forced to do so by men–can be fined 30,000€ (60,000€ if the person is minor) and face up to two years in prison. The Q&A section of the website justifies this sanction by explaining that “The repression of these acts engages the willingness of the government to vigorously fight against all forms of discrimination and violence against women, which constitute unacceptable violations of the principle of equality between the sexes.”
Could this really just be about secularism, keeping religious symbols out of the public space, keeping France French? It’s not against Muslims, right? To give a little context about what is currently going on in France, let’s also remember that Marine Le Pen of the Front National (who once remarked that the “weekly illegal blocking of public streets and squares throughout France for Muslim prayers is comparable with an occupation of parts of French territory.”) is a front runner in voter polls leading up to the 2012 presidential elections. But no, France isn’t intolerant as a country.