Indiana Daily Student

France battles recent burka controversies

Islam in France is a touchy subject.

As the government continues to push to ban the burka — a full-body veil worn by many Muslim women — critics cite the move as proof of pervasive racism and xenophobia.

The ban is intended to promote gender equality along with a new series of gender rights classes being proposed for new immigrants to the country.

In 2009, Le Figaro, a national newspaper, estimated that only 2,000 women in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, actually wear the garment.

They’ve already banned most religious clothing items in public schools, including the hijab — a covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women. Yet the issue is far from resolved.

Here’s a timeline of some recent events and clashes between government and the veil:
— June 22, 2009: French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy calls the burka a sign of “subservience” and said it was “not welcome” in France, according to a Daily Telegraph article.

— June 27, 2009: al-Qaida releases a statement threatening to retaliate against France should the burka ban pass.

— Late 2009: Public meetings begin to discuss “national identity” as waves of Muslim North African immigrants enter the country.

— Jan. 26, 2010: A parliamentary committee report recommends that Muslim women should not be allowed to wear a burka in public places.

— Feb. 4, 2010: Government officials deny citizenship to a Moroccan man who forces his wife to wear the full-body veil, citing violations of gender equality-based values systems.

— Feb. 6, 2010: Two gunmen dressed in burkas rob a bank near Paris, taking nearly 4,500 euros ($6,122).

— Mid February: Immigration officials end the national identity debates and recommend requiring national flags, singing of the national anthem in schools and gender equality education classes.

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