Sunday, 10 April 2011

Speaking for herself

The French ‘burqa ban’, which comes into force tomorrow, has sparked a lot of debate in this country, much of it completely uninformed by the opinions of the small number of women who wear it.

I’ve already said, many times, that their decision to wear a niqab is not one I would make. But these women have a right to their own voice. 

A new report from the At Home in Europe project examines the views and experiences of 32 women in France who wear a full-face veil – and finds that the vast majority took the decision for themselves.

Today’s Observer carries an interview with Kenza Drider, one of the women who now faces arrest for her decision to dress in this way. She is very clear that it is a personal choice:

“There was no mosque involved, no pressure from anyone. It is not a religious constraint since it is not laid down in Islam or the Qur'an that I have to wear a full veil. It is my personal choice...I would never encourage others to do it just because I do. That is their choice. My daughters can do what they like. As I tell them, this is my choice, not theirs."

She is equally clear about the effect that this law will have in France.

"When President Sarkozy said: 'The burqa is not welcome in France', the president, my president, opened the door for racism, aggression and attacks on Islam. This is an attempt to stigmatise Islam and it has created enormous racism and Islamophobia that wasn't there before."

Women like Kenza Drider can clearly speak for themselves.They should have the same right to choose how they dress.