Muslims refuse to integrate
PARIS (Reuters) – Several mayors of French towns faced with growing demands from Muslim residents say they fear a proposed ban on head-to-toe burqa and niqab veils could not be enforced and might even prompt more women to cover up.
The mayors expressed their doubts to a parliamentary panel set up to study a possible ban after President Nicolas Sarkozy declared in June that full veils symbolised the subjugation of women and would “not be welcome on our territory.”
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France banned Muslim headscarves in state schools in 2004 following a similar inquiry. Many mayors and teachers backed that move and the relative ease with which it was introduced has been cited by some arguing for a ban on veils covering the face.
But the hesitation among the five mayors, who experience at first hand the complexities of multicultural life in the suburbs where many Muslims live, showed banning the full veil in public would be much harder than outlawing headscarves in schools.
All mayors said some Muslim residents were increasingly making religious demands on municipal services, such as halal school meals or women-only hours in pools. In hospitals, some women refused to be treated by male doctors.
Some Muslims pressured others who did not fast during Ramadan, they said, and abused civil servants as Islamophobes when they refused to comply with demands not allowed by law.
Even the mayors worried about a ban said the National Assembly had to help local officials deal with these issues. But there was no consensus on how to do this.
“I can’t see a ban working,” said Jean-Yves Le Bouillonnec, mayor of Cachan south of Paris. “It’s extremely complex and almost completely inapplicable.”