France rejects Muslim woman over radical practice of Islam
The case yesterday reopened the debate about Islam in France, and how the secular republic reconciles itself with the freedom of religion guaranteed by the French constitution.
The woman, known as Faiza M, is 32, married to a French national and lives east of Paris. She has lived in France since 2000, speaks good French and has three children born in France. Social services reports said she lived in “total submission” to her husband. Her application for French nationality was rejected in 2005 on the grounds of “insufficient assimilation” into France. She appealed, invoking the French constitutional right to religious freedom and saying that she had never sought to challenge the fundamental values of France. But last month the Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, upheld the ruling.
“She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes,” it said.
“Is the burqa incompatible with French citizenship?” asked Le Monde, which broke the story. The paper said it was the first time the level of a person’s personal religious practice had been used to rule on their capacity be to assimilated into France.
The legal expert who reported to the Council of State said the woman’s interviews with social services revealed that “she lives almost as a recluse, isolated from French society”.
The report said: “She has no idea about the secular state or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to her male relatives. She seems to find this normal and the idea of challenging it has never crossed her mind.”
The woman had said she was not veiled when she lived in Morocco and had worn the burqa since arriving in France at the request of her husband. She said she wore it more from habit than conviction.
France is home to nearly 5 million Muslims, roughly half of whom are French citizens. Criteria taken into account for granting French citizenship includes “assimilation”, which normally focuses on how well the candidate speaks French. In the past nationality was denied to Muslims who were known to have links with extremists or who had publicly advocated radicalism, but that was not the case of Faiza M.
The ruling comes weeks after a controversy prompted by a court annulment of the marriage of two Muslims because the husband said the wife was not a virgin as she had claimed to be.
France’s ban on headscarves and other religious symbols in state schools in 2004 sparked a heated debate over freedom and equality within the secular republic. The French government adheres to the theory that all French citizens are equal before the republic, and religion or ethnic background are matters for the private sphere. In practice, rights groups say, society is plagued by discrimination.
Later reports have stated the full name of the woman involved: Faiza Mabchour.
In the case of the Moroccan woman, Le Monde suggested the Council of State had gone to the opposite extreme by rejecting the woman’s beliefs and way of life rather than accommodating them.
“Is a burqa incompatible with French nationality?” the newspaper asked.
The legal expert who provided a formal report on the case to the Council of State wrote that the woman’s interviews with social services revealed that “she lives almost as a recluse, isolated from French society,” Le Monde reported.
“She has no idea about the secular state or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to her male relatives.
She seems to find this normal and the idea of challenging it has never crossed her mind,” Emmanuelle Prada-Bordenave wrote.
Le Monde quoted Daniele Lochak, a law professor not involved in the case, as saying it was bizarre to consider that excessive submission to men was a reason not to grant citizenship.
“If you follow that to its logical conclusion, it means that women whose partners beat them are also not worthy of being French.’
By its very nature, Islam makes it extremely difficult for Muslims to integrate. Islam means submission, and the Quran makes it clear that Muslims expect non-Muslims to eventually submit to Islam — or to Islamic rule.
Ruling May Heighten France-Muslim Tension
The ruling is the latest chapter in France’s struggle to square its secular ideals with the traditional and religious beliefs of Europe’s largest Muslim community.
The denial of citizenship for Ms. Mabchour could exacerbate tensions between France’s Muslim community and the country’s political establishment, since the ruling essentially extends the demands of French secularism into what has been considered a private sphere — the home. The ruling, issued on June 27, was disclosed by a report in French daily Le Monde on Friday.
French Muslim leaders urged caution. “I hope people won’t judge the entire Muslim community of France by this example,” said Moroccan-born Mohamed Be’chari, president of the National Federation of French Muslims. “Muslims are not oppressed in France.”
The Conseil d’Etat ruling comes as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who this week took the reins of the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency, is urging the 27-nation bloc to follow France’s example and toughen immigration rules.
Mr. Sarkozy has introduced measures aimed at better integrating France’s large immigrant population into mainstream society. As interior minister, he helped push through legislation requiring immigrants seeking work visas to speak French.
Since the beginning of the year, immigrants must sign a “contract of integration” that attests to their support for French ideals such as “laicite,” or “secularism,” or risk expulsion. They must also attend a day-long course on French history.
Although France’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, many French people regard religion as a private matter. That strict separation between church and state has come under severe strain as the country’s growing Muslim population seeks to express its religious traditions in public settings.
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