France: Burka wearing 'marginal phenomenon', popular among converts

France: Burka wearing 'marginal phenomenon', popular among converts

French newspaper Le Monde reports on two recent reports prepared by the French police intelligence agencies for the government on the topic of the burka in France.  Both conclude that it's a very minor phenomenon, but the investigators point out that less than ten years ago, the burka and niqab, were unknown in France.  These documents, seen by Le Monde, come to inform the government, precisely at the moment when a parliamentary commission was set up on the topic.

The first report, from July 1st, is titled "Islam in France: the issues of wearing the full veil in France".  It was prepared by the SDIG.  The second study, which was published eight days later, was prepared by the DCRI.  It includes a precise tally of those wearing the full veil: 367 women in France.

This figure, which is not claimed to be comprehensive, is the result of observations through the country by the DCRI teams.  Starting from this 'snapshot' the service drew other conclusions: a majority of women identified as wearing the full veil do so voluntarily; more are under 30; 26% are French converts to Islam.  Almost all live in the major urban centers, in the Paris, PACA (Marseille), Nord (Lille) and Rhône-Alpes (Lyon) regions.  The DCRI report says that the youngest wearer of the full veil is 5 years old.

The SDGI report is 15 pages long and does not give any figures, but its conclusions are not different.  The agency estimates that it's a marginal praictice of young women.  Again, it emphasizes the importance of French converts.  The agents of the SDIG say that wearing the full veil comes from a desire to provoke society, or even her family.  It displays militancy, coming from Salafism.

The agency reports the case of fifteen young women who showed up, deliberately, at a commercial center in Marseilles.  The appearance of the group, which bought nothing, though it was at the date summer sales begin, was seen as a provocative act.

The SDIG describes the situation saying, similarly to the DCRI, that the phenomenon is focused in the major urban center in the Paris region and the Rhone valley.  Some examples have been identified in the rural department such as Haute-Vienne, Indre-et-Loire and Côte-d'Or, but also in the Eastern Pyrenees and Manche.  None have been seen in Brittany.

In contrast to the DCRI, the SDIG tried to list the positions of the various organization representing Islam in France, particularly in sensitive areas.  The fundamentalists, who 'denounce secular fundamentalism', and the rest of the Muslims, the vast majority of which reject the full veil and compare it's supports to a 'sect', according to the authors of the report.

However, many fear the the debate on the full veil will 'stigmatize Islam'.  The study concludes that even if there's a certain number of Muslim loners, most believe that wearing the full veil is from a different age.

Why two reports?  Le Monde says that both said it was their job.  Since the reform of police intelligence on July 1, 2008, the SDIG is tasked with public information on Islam in France, as well as other religions.  THe DCRI specializes in counter-terrorism and is responsible for monitoring the closed community of radical Islam.


Responses: André Gérin, the Communist Deputy who started this debate, says the figures in the study are 'ridicoulsous'.  while Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque, says the study confirms his opinion, that it's a marginal phenomenon.  People shouldn't be offended by such a small number, and there is no need for a national debate.  (full interviews on Europe1)

Sources: Le Monde, Europe1 (French)

See also: France: Proposal for inquiry commission on burkas

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