The Burqa is a garb worn many Muslim women, in public, that covers them from head to feet.
The Niqab is a veil that is worn by Muslim women that covers all of the face, except for the eyes.
France has almost four million Muslims.
A poll from Pew Research Center claims that eighty percent of French voters support the ban of the burqa/niqab. This number could have possibly risen due to the many Islamic extremist attacks in the last couple of years.
The main reason there is a lot of support for this measure in French society is because the Islamic garbs are thought to prevent the identification of a person, clash with the secular nature of the French system of government, pose a security threat, and make assimilation harder.
The French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) was a big supporter of the burqa/niqab ban, in France, believing the garments violated women's right and clashed with France's secular values.
The bill that ultimately legally banned the burqa/niqab passed the National Assembly almost unanimously (335-1), and passed the Senate by a vote of 246-1, although many senators did decide to abstain (100).
A person can penalized up to 150 euros if they violate these laws, and might be forced to take citizen education classes. Someone who forces another to wear facial coverings faces a higher fine and possible jail time. Penalties become even more extreme if the victim is a minor (under eighteen).
Many see this ban as a violation of free speech and expression, which is something that the French constitution protects, and fear that this law is a deviation from France's democratic traditions and a slip into totalitarian behavior. Another popular argument is that since the niqab and burqa are not based in Islamic laws and texts, they do not conflict with France's secularism. Many other countries (like Pakistan) protested this ban in France, but in the end the European Court of Human Rights upheld the law in 2014. Some even believe that this ban has given a platform to "islamophobes" who believe their views are validated and now have a right to harass Muslims in France.
Does France have an islamophobia problem?
I do believe that the burqa and niqab promote the idea that a woman can only be moral, decent and gain respect if they cover their body. It surprises me that such a misogynistic idea is so widely accepted by today's society. The perception that women have free will in this matter is also slightly flawed. It is hard to have free will when you're told that if you take off the niqab/burqa you will no longer be virtuous or deserve esteem. We should be fighting for women's rights and not accepting the degradation of women.
The face is vital for communication and the covering of it could pose a challenge for assimilation. The face is also vital for recognition and identification, when it is covered it becomes a direct threat to a countries' security which is extremely important.
At the same time I don't believe that banning the niqab/burqa is at all effective. It creates tension and anger and doesn't solve any problems. It further alienates people who are already having trouble assimilating. I also don't like the idea of a state or government determining what we can and cannot wear. My objection to the niqab and burqa is solely personal. I do not wish to force anyone to live their life based off my personal beliefs and preferences. That is undemocratic.
Willsher, Kim. "France's Burqa Ban Upheld by Human Rights Court." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 01 July 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
"Does France's 'burqa Ban' Protect - or Persecute?" Public Radio International. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
Vandoorne, Saskya. CNN. Cable News Network, 15 Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.