15 August 2009 18:00 UK

French minister urges burka ban

Fadela Amara said France was a beacon for an enlightened Islam

A ban on the wearing of the burka in France would help stem the spread of the "cancer" of radical Islam, one of its female Muslim ministers has said.

Urban Regeneration Minister Fadela Amara told the Financial Times that a veil covering everything but the eyes represented "the oppression of women".

Ms Amara said she was "in favour of the burka not existing in my country".

The comments come as French MPs hold hearings on whether to ban the garment, which covers the body from head to toe.

The National Assembly set up the 32-member commission after President Nicolas Sarkozy said the burka was "not welcome" in France, home to Western Europe's largest population of Muslims.

"The burka represents not a piece of fabric but the political manipulation of a religion"
Fadela Amara, French Minister for Urban Regeneration

Mr Sarkozy said it was unacceptable to have women who were "prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity".

In 2004, France controversially banned Muslim headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools and by public employees.

'Male chauvinism'

In an interview with the Financial Times on Saturday, Ms Amara said she was in favour of an outright ban on the burka, even though it might be difficult to apply.

"The burka represents not a piece of fabric but the political manipulation of a religion that enslaves women and disputes the principal of equality between men and women, one of the founding principles of our republic," she said.

France was a beacon for an enlightened Islam at ease with modernity, so it was necessary to fight the "gangrene, the cancer of radical Islam which completely distorts the message of Islam", she said.

Ms Amara, who is of Algerian descent, argued that banning the burka would help women to stand up to the extremists in their communities.

"The vast majority of Muslims are against the burka. It is obvious why," she said.
"Those who have struggled for women's rights back home in their own countries - I'm thinking particularly of Algeria - we know what it represents and what the obscurantist political project is that lies behind it, to confiscate the most fundamental liberties."

She added that the 2004 ban on headscarves in schools had helped Muslim women face up to male chauvinism in their communities.

French minister calls for burka ban


Sarkozy, right, said the burka was "not welcome" in secular France [AFP]

A ban on wearing the all covering burka in France would stem the spread of the "cancer" of radical Islam, a Muslim French minister has said.

Fadela Amara, the minister for urban regeneration who is of Algerian descent, told the Financial Times newspaper on Saturday that the head-to-toe body covering and veil represented the "oppression of women, their enslavement, their humiliation."

France was a beacon for an enlightened Islam at ease with modernity, so it was necessary to fight the "gangrene, the cancer of radical Islam which completely distorts the message of Islam," Amara was quoted as saying.

"The vast majority of Muslims are against the burka. It is obvious why," she told the newspaper.

"Those who have struggled for women's rights back home in their own countries - I'm thinking particularly of Algeria - we know what it represents and what the obscurantist political project is that lies behind it, to confiscate the most fundamental of liberties," she said.

The comments came as French legislators conduct hearings on whether to ban the burka after President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was "not welcome" in secular France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority.