Israeli lawmakers and women’s rights activists weighed in Thursday over a bill
which passed one house of the French parliament on Tuesday banning face-covering
Islamic veils in France. A similar bill was presented to the Knesset this week
but is regarded as highly unlikely to become law.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United
Arab List- Ta’al) told The Jerusalem Post he opposed the measure on legal
grounds and said he suspected French lawmakers had an ulterior motive in
advancing their version.
“I’m opposed to such prohibitive, laws because I
think one’s code of dress is their own choice,” Tibi said.
“But this may
be part of a growing phenomenon of Islamophobia throughout Europe.”
Einat Wilf (Labor) said she understood the problematic nature of the
intervening in its citizens’ right to practice their religious beliefs
ultimately she supported it to protect the rights of women.
sympathetic to the French dilemma toward a group which wishes to live in
but refuses to share its ideals,” the lawmaker said.
“My attitude is that
there are instances, especially when women’s rights are involved, that
has to draw the line even if it seems invasive or cruel. But I am aware
troublesomeness of this. On the whole, I think the decision was right
She compared women wearing veils that fully cover their face
with those forced to sit in the back of the bus on lines catering to
communities in Israel.
“The state should not accept instances where women
and men are separated humiliatingly,” she said.
On Tuesday, the National
Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, voted in favor of
by a majority of 335 to one. It needs to be ratified in the Senate in
to become a law.
If passed, the bill will slap fines of €150 on women who
wear garb that covers the entirety or most of their face, like the niqab
burka, and mete out prison sentences of up to a year behind bars and a
€30,000 to men who make their wives wear them.
CRIF, the umbrella group
of French Jewry, declined to comment on the passing of the bill.
However, in an
address earlier this year, CRIF President Richard Prasquier expressed
for the ban.
“The burqa is contrary to the values of the republic, not
only because it is imposed on women but also because we communicate with
through our face,” Prasquier said.
Women’s rights groups in Israel said
they suspected French lawmakers who sponsored the bill did not have the
interest of the women they were allegedly protecting in mind.
Kehat, the founder of Kolech, a religious women’s rights group, said she
mixed feelings over the bill. “They’re not admitting the real reason,”
“They say it’s a matter of liberalism, but if women say that that is
want, how can one interfere? Fashion also often oppresses women with
lead to anorexia.”
She added: “I wouldn’t want to see such a law in
However, similar legislation is now being proposed here. On
Monday, MK Marina Solodkin of Kadima presented a bill to the Knesset
greatly resembles the current French proposal.
If it is approved, Israeli
women caught in public wearing a scarf fully covering their face would
NIS 500 or sentenced to one month in prison. Anyone forcing them to wear
full-faced veil would be fined NIS 10,000 or sentenced to six months
Eilat Maoz, the general coordinator for The Coalition of Women for
Peace, called Solodkin’s bill “a joke” and said it was highly unlikely
a law. “Under the guise of defending women, the state is often defending
racism,” she said. “The burqa exposes those who wear it to both sexism
racism. Like many other instances, the state has to decide in this case
to intervene or not.”