PARIS (JTA) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the burka has no place in his country.
“The burka is not welcome,” he said during an address Monday to the French parliament amid a parliamentary debate on whether the full body covering worn by Muslim women should be outlawed.
Sarkozy also took the opportunity to defend his country’s secular law forbidding citizens from wearing visible religious symbols in public schools and institutions.
“We shouldn’t be ashamed of our values. We shouldn’t be afraid to defend them,” Sarkozy said in an apparent partial response to President Obama’s perceived indirect criticism of French secularism in a speech earlier this month.
The U.S. leader said religious people in Western countries should be free to dress as they choose.
Sarkozy said the burka, which includes a woven mesh covering the eyes, “is not a religious symbol. It’s a symbol of subservience.”
French law bars Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public institutions. The same applies to any visible religious symbols, such as Jewish skullcaps.
Sarkozy’s comments were in response to a debate over a parliamentary proposal to form an investigative committee to analyze whether the burka should be restricted in France.
Members of French government disagree on whether legislation against the burka would encourage the custom more than prevent it.
Following the 2004 law against wearing a Muslim headscarf, some young women began wearing the garment to school in protest.