France vs. Niqabs and Burqas

The French lower house of Parliament, the National Assembly, voted last week 335 to 1 to prohibit from public places all “clothing intended to hide the face,” with a €150 fine per breech.

This step does not ban niqabs and burqas but constitutes one of many steps in this direction. The French Senate must pass the bill. The Constitutional Court will likely review it. Both French and Europe courts will certainly judge it. Its chances of becoming law remain unclear.

The bill, far from reflecting Gallic eccentricity, fits into a much larger pattern of Western responses to this horrid, dangerous garment. Efforts to ban face coverings have passed or are under way in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Australia. (The United States is conspicuously absent from this list.) In a review of these initiatives, David Rusin of Islamist Watch dubs them the “fashion trend of the year.”

Muslim-majority countries are more divided: on a single day, July 19, even as Pakistanis demonstrated against the French vote, the Syrian government banned niqabs and burqas from the country’s universities.

Women’s clothing symbolizes a larger trend of Muslims driving the West’s social and legal agenda.

[Editor’s note:National Review Online asked several writers: “Is France really banning the burqa? What does this mean? What could other Western nations learn from it?” Daniel Pipes reply is above. For those of Raymond Ibrahim, Judith Apter Klinghoffer, Melanie Phillips, James V. Schall, Jonathan Schanzer, and Bat Ye’or, click here.]

Daniel Pipes


Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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