In general we think laws are a good thing, because a lot of them are supposed to keep us safe and make our lives easier. But when the people behind a law acknowledge that enforcing it might cause more harm than good, does that law have a point? French officials have said that applying the country’s newly enacted ban on the burka, the full-face covering worn by some Muslim women, is going to be pretty hard to do, and will almost certainly have to be enforced on a case-by-case basis.
Nevertheless, The Telegraph reports that just hours after the ban was passed, French police had arrested two women near the Notre Dame cathedral The two were part of a group of people protesting the new law. Some of the other members of this group were also arrested, not because they were wearing burkas, but because the protest itself had not been approved.
Over the weekend, 59 people (19 of them were women wearing burkas) were arrested during a similar protest of the law, the first of its kind in Europe. Concern about stirring up more violence than good has prompted police to be careful about where and how they apply the law.
“The law will be very difficult to apply on certain estates,” said Patrice Ribeiro, of the Synergie police union.
Referring to two Paris suburbs where riots regularly break out because of alleged discrimination against Muslims, Mr. Ribeiro said: “I can’t see police going to book dozens of veiled women doing their shopping in Venissieux or in Trappes.
“It will be the same when a police officer is about to arrest a veiled Saudi who is about to go into Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysees. In all cases, the forces of order will have to be measured and cautious in their behaviour.”
As much as we appreciate that part of this law’s impetus was the idea that burkas are “contrary to the rights of women,” as French President Nicolas Sarkosy put it, if women are going to jail for protesting this law, then maybe it wasn’t the best route to their liberation.
French burka ban: police arrest two veiled women [The Telegraph]