The French National Assembly decided today to set up an inquiry into the rising number of Muslim women who wear the burqa after President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke out against the full Islamic veil.
In a historic address to parliament yesterday, Sarkozy said the burqa was not a symbol of religious faith but a sign of women’s “subservience” and served notice that the head-to-toe veil was “not welcome” in staunchly secular France.
Speaker Bernard Accoyer said 32 lawmakers from right-wing and leftist parties will be examining the thorny issue for six months beginning in July and report on its findings.
The lower house of parliament was responding to a call from a group of lawmakers, many of whom are from Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party, for a panel to look at ways of restricting the wearing of the burqa.
Home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, France has been engulfed in debate over whether women’s rights and the nation’s strong secular tradition are under attack when Muslim women cover themselves fully.
Some ministers have suggested that a law should be enacted banning the burqa in public places, but critics argue that a better approach would be to resort to education and outreach.