I have no idea how many Muslim women around the world wear a niqab (full-face veil) when they go outdoors, but I’d bet quite a sizeable percentage would rather stick with just the head covering (khimar) or wear no covering at all. I’ve done a bit of Googling and learned that there is debate among Muslims whether the Quran requires women to cover their faces, as well as their heads and bodies. The coverings (partial or otherwise) are designed to hide a woman’s beauty around men who aren’t related to her.
Quran or no Quran, I find the full-face veil concept oppressive. Apparently, so does the French government, which banned on Monday the wearing of these veils in public places, making it the first European country to impose restrictions on a form of dress that some Muslims consider a religious duty.
Although ultra-devout Muslim women in France are probably incensed by the ban, I imagine many of them are secretly cheering. It gives them an out with husbands or fathers who compel them to wear a niqab. These same husbands won’t let them see male doctors, and goodness knows what else they forbid. A clause in the law says that anyone who forces a woman to cover her face can be sent to prison for up to a year and fined up to over $40,000, according to an article in today’s New York Times. The law is widely popular in France, but will likely be hard to enforce.