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Driver fined for wearing Burqa

By: Lisa Keegan

Date: Friday, 17. February 2012

The French battle with the Burqa shifts up a gear with the recent fining of a 31-year old female driver in Nantes, France, for the offense of wearing a Burqa whilst driving.

The Nantes Police claim the Burqa interfered with the woman's field of vision and therefore posed a safety risk. In her defense the unnamed woman argued that the veil did not interfere with her vision and that she was compliant in voluntarily removing it to verify her identity to police. However, this does possibly raise another issue, more related to driver enforcement than safety. Many countries are clamping down on tinted windows in vehicles as they can obscure the view of the driver, both by law enforcement officers and roadside cameras (often used for identification purposes). This is an argument the French may be able to use in relation to the wearing of headscarves.

The incident in Nantes occurs while the French government are in the throes of legislating for a full ban on the wearing of a Burqa or Niqab in public places. A Burqa covers the entire body of the woman except for the eyes and it is worn by many Muslim women as a mark of modesty, the French government however, see it more as a symbol of the subjugation of women 'the burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience .... it will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic' [Nicolas Sarkozy, June 22, 2009]

In terms of driver safety is the Burqa an issue? The Police in Nantes certainly seem to think so but the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) recently aired a very insightful program called 'Muslim Driving School' which, in following the daily trials of a Burqa-clad driving instructor, provides a very different perspective.

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