French Hijab Ban Fixed Firmly in Place

The French constitutional court last night came to a decision about the wearing of hijab in public places. According to this new law, it is illegal for women to wear a full facial veil such as the niqab or burka. To avoid any accusations of religious intolerance, racism or bigotry, the rule will allow this tradition in public houses of worship. To do otherwise, the BBC reports, may “violate religious freedom.”

A fine of 150 Euros is applicable to anyone who wears a full facial veil in public; alternatively, women may enrol in a “citizenship course.”

Muslims in France have been ‘assured’ however, that there will be a six-month period of education; during this time, Muslim women who wear a niqab or burka will be informed of the illegality of their tradition. They will be told that the fines for such crimes are severe, and that they could face arrest.

Those who force women to wear a full facial veil are liable to pay a fine of 30,000 Euros.

This debate began some years ago amid concerns of a dwindling French identity. Public sentiment maintained that French people were not free in their own land – and that the cosmopolitan nature of their modern society had left them without a national identity of their own.

Riots and racial violence had in the past stopped this law from going much further than the forums of public debate.

There are however, some forms of hijab permissible under this new rule: hijab, al-amira, shayla, chimar and chador. 

However, there is further controversy around this judgement as it will force around 2,000 French women who currently wear a full facial hijab to switch to one of the permissible items of hijab. These women have been given six months to alter a practice they have maintained since they were six years old.

French president Nicholas Sarkozy has backed this ruling; ending, in effect, a nation- and continent-wide debate on French national identity and the place of Islam in modern France.

British national papers report that Spain and Belgium are considering implementing this law.

A chador is worn mainly in Iran; a full length piece of cloth, it is open down the front and then thrown over the head. The ends are held shut by hands or by tying them at the waist. This is one of the most conservative methods for women to follow the Islamic dress code, known as hijab.
A khimar is a long piece of cloth which hangs down almost to the waist; it covers the hair, neck and shoulders but leaves the face completely clear. This is a conservative form of hijab open to French women who wish to conceal themselves.
The burka is one of the most conservative and concealing form of hijab. It covers the entire head, face and body; a mesh screen is worn for the eyes.
A niqab is a facial veil which leaves a space open for the eyes; alternatively, a separate piece of cloth can be worn over the eyes. The niqab is usually worn with a headscarf.
Hijab is the Arabic word for this form of dress and is also the name of the most commonly found headscarf. The hijab comes in many shapes and sizes and is the most common method of wearing hijab in the West. In its most common form, a hijab is a scarf or a piece of cloth wrapped around the head, leaving the face open. The hijab will be legal in France.
Shayla is a long veil found most commonly in the Gulf region of the world. It is wrapped around the head and hangs down by the shoulders. This will be legal in France. Shayla is the most common form of headdress for visitors to the Middle East, especially those wishing to observe local traditions while not completely covering themselves.
Al-Amira comprises of two pieces of cloth – a cap, usually made of cotton and a tube-shaped scarf which goes above the head. In this way, the full head and the hairline are hidden. This will be legal in France.


  1. Very comprehensive and instructive piece. Well done! I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of protective gar for women, just knew about ‘burqa’ and ‘hijab’. Thank you.


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