Agnès Poirier: This excessive law tempts me to put a veil on myself

How will the French police proceed in dealing with a law that they say is unworkable?

Related Topics

There is no greater irony than the one lying at the heart of France's new law banning the burka. Why should we ban what is already forbidden and poses very little problem? The 2004 law banning all conspicuous religious signs from public spaces does just that: it bans crucifixes, kippahs, sikh turbans, hijabs, niqabs and the burka where it matters.

And where does it matter to keep religion out? "Public spaces" in the political meaning of the term: courts, hospitals and schools, where we are all bound to interact as citizens of one unified nation. What Nicolas Sarkozy's ill-advised law is doing is pushing the ban to a new kind of territory: the streets. It furthermore focuses only on Islam's most radical practice, the veiling of a woman's face. It stigmatises one religion in particular and it does so in what is not a formally public space, but – a crucial distinction – in a common and open space.

Of course, one could argue that the concept behind the niqab and burka is most distasteful, misogynistic, and indeed undemocratic. You will find few people in the Western world nourished by the Enlightenment for the last three hundred years who would disagree with that position. But that fact is deceptive. For you will also find almost as many people who would say that banning it from the streets is just as questionable.

Now that this new ban is effective, how will the French police proceed in dealing with a law that they say is unworkable? Will they dedicate a whole niqab brigade to deal with the problem? Perhaps they won't have to: the number of women wearing the burka in France is no more than 2,000.

Then again, perhaps, they will. If I were a teenager today, foolhardy and prone to grand gestures, I'd be tempted to wear it, not to show any support to fundamental Islamism, which is despicable to most women and citizens, but simply as a symbol of anti-Sarkozy protest.

Nicolas Sarkozy has so antagonised French society since his arrival to power four years ago that the majority of his laws have been rejected by a majority of the French people, even after they were passed through Parliament.

I wouldn't be surprised if one of the first measures announced by next year's new President is a repeal of this ill-advised ban. Assuming, that is, that the next president is not Marine Le Pen.

Agnès Poirier is a journalist and author of 'Touché: A Frenchwoman's Take on the English'

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own