Burqa not welcome in France : Sarkozy

June 22nd, 2009 - 11:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Paris, June 22 (DPA) In a speech he himself called “an important moment”, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that women wearing the burqa would not be accepted on French territory.
“The problem of the burqa is not a religious problem, it is a problem of the dignity of women. It is a symbol of subservience, of submission. The burqa will not be welcome in our French republic, ” Sarkozy said during his address before a joint session of the two houses of Parliament in Versailles.

Sarkozy became the first French head of state to address lawmakers in 150 years. The last French head of state to do so was Charles-Louis Napoleon, in 1848.

His appearance was made possible by a July 2008 amendment of the French constitution, which had prohibited a sitting president from addressing lawmakers.

Sarkozy’s comments on the burqa were inspired by a resolution introduced last week, and now signed by 80 lawmakers, calling for the creation of a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the wearing of the burqa on French territory.

A burqa is the most concealing of all Islamic veils as it covers the entire face and body, leaving only a mesh screen to see through.

In his address, the French president also vowed to implement a form of affirmative action to do away with social inequality.

“Who does not see that our model of integration no longer works?” Sarkozy said. “To achieve equality, we must know how to give more to those who have less.”

To attain that goal, a form of affirmative action would be put into effect that was “not based on ethnic criteria but on social criteria,” Sarkozy said.

When US President Barack Obama came to Paris as a presidential candidate in July 2008, Sarkozy had vowed to implement affirmative action as had been done in the United States. But he has run up against widespread opposition to the idea.

The project for equality would be a “top priority” of his new government, Sarkozy said, and announced that a ministerial re-shuffle would be announced Wednesday.

If in the first part of his address Sarkozy sounded like a left-wing social reformer, with his defence of women’s rights, his call for equality and a vow to improve prison conditions, he soon returned to his favourite subject, the reduction of public spending

and the reform of the country’s bureaucracy.

Sarkozy’s appearance before lawmakers, in the context of the pomp of Versailes, was severely criticized by the opposition Socialists and their left-wing allies.

Many lawmakers also criticized the cost of the event, which was estimated at about 400,000 euros ($556,000).

The Green Party and the Communists boycotted the event, while the Socialists refused to participate in a debate that took place after Sarkozy’s departure.

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