French Muslims want freedom to wear burka
Muslim women in France see face veil as basic right
From a ban on the burka to the rejection of the burkini, Muslim women in France are increasingly facing tough restrictions on dress code, which they say violates their freedom to choose.
Despite President Nicolas Sarkozy's statement condemning the burka, or face veil, as "unwelcome" in France and MPs move to ban the traditional outfit, according to Interior Ministry statistics the number of French women that wear the burka is no more than 367.
Freedom to cover
Christelle, born to French parents, converted to Islam 11 years ago. A year after becoming a Muslim she married an Algerian man and has five children with him.
Christelle, now called Soraya, defended her decision to cover her face and refuses to take it off as she says it is her right.
Soraya started by wearing the traditional veil that covers the hair but says she was harassed and decided to cover her face to protect herself.
"If France is the protector of freedoms, they should let me practice my own freedom," she told Al Arabiya.
Soraya, who works as a hairdresser from home, is not the only woman who defends her right to wear the burka and even women outside France support the cause of Muslim French women.
Islamic scholars have repeatedly said the burka is not obligatory in Islam and in June Egypt's Grand Imam Sheikh Mohammad Tantawi reacted to Sarkozy's comments by saying "every state had a right to ban the face veil."
If France is the protector of freedoms, they should let me practice my own freedom
A tourist from the Gulf who was praying at the Grande Mosquée de Paris, the largest mosque in France which was built after World War I as a tribute to Muslim soldiers, said she was proud to hold on to her beliefs.
"I am not a defeatist," the woman, who asked to remain unnamed, told Al Arabiya. "I hold on to my beliefs and am proud of being a woman who abides by the teachings of her religion."
She called on all Arab tourists to wear the face veil if they felt so inclined.
A parliamentary committee comprised of 23 MPs is currently studying the possibility of issuing a law that bans the burka modeled after the religious symbols ban in 2004.
The 2004 law prohibits people from wearing religious symbols like the head scarf, the Jewish skull cap and big crosses.
The debate about the face veil is, however, attracting little attention in the Muslim community since few of them support the burka as a principle and most Muslims see it as a cultural practice not a religious one.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)
I hold on to my beliefs and am proud of being a woman who abides by the teachings of her religion