France’s veil law continues to incite tension

There have been recent confrontations in Argenteuil, north west Paris, after a woman was stopped for wearing the nijab in the streets. This is a version of the Islamic cover-up for woman in which all aspects of the body are covered save for a slit through which the eyes can be seen.

The confrontation became heated when a passer-by intervened and made clear his disagreement with the police’s actions, saying that in his eyes the wearing of the nijab was legitimate. Around sixty people then gathered around, insulting and hitting the police, who in turn used tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel the crowd. According to a report by Le Monde, eyewitnesses at the scene recounted that babies in prams had been the victims of tear gas. Two men were arrested under accusation of disrupting public order, ‘rebellion,’ and ‘outrage.’

This incident is linked to the highly controversial law of 2010, introduced under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, where covering one’s face in public leads to a fine of 150 euros. Since the introduction of this law, around 300 women have been penalised.

Once famous as a country-side retreat for Parisians, and made iconic by the Impressionists, who painted many scenes ‘en plein air’ of Argenteuil during the summer, the town has now become a suburb of Paris, with a crime rating much higher than the national average.

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