President Nicolas Sarkozy lashed out Monday at the practice of wearing the Muslim burqa, insisting the full-body religious gown is a sign of the “debasement” of women and that it won’t be welcome in France“The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of servitude.The French leader expressed support for a recent call by dozens of legislators to create a parliamentary commission to study a small but growing trend of wearing the full-body garment in France at the Versailles Palace on the outskirts of ParisCalling it a violation of women’s “dignity and freedom,” Sarkozy said the burqa “will not be welcome on French soil.”
In the first presidential address in 136 years to a joint session of France’s two houses of parliament, Sarkozy laid out his support for a ban even before the panel has been approved — braving critics who fear the issue is a marginal one and could stigmatize Muslims in France.
“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,”
Sarkozy said “The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,”
He said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”
France enacted a law in 2004 banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols from public schools, sparking fierce debate at home and abroad. France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, an estimated 5 million people.The issue is highly divisive even within the government. France’s junior minister for human rights, Rama Yade, said she was open to a ban if it is aimed at protecting women forced to wear the burqa.