Sarkozy vows to ban the burqa

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Wednesday to introduce a law to ban the burqa in France, saying that the all-body Islamic veil was an insult to women.

The declaration was part of a major policy speech intended as a response to his party’s defeat in Sunday’s regional elections, which has shaken his position and worried his conservative allies.

“The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women. The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws,” Sarkozy told journalists in Paris.

To underscore the weakness of the French right and his own, a poll made public Wednesday showed that nearly six of 10 French voters wanted the left to win the 2012 presidential election.

The speech was addressed as much to French voters as to the growing chorus of dissident voices within his UMP party that counseled him to slow down his reforms and change other policies.

Sarkozy’s response was a firm no.

“Nothing would be worse than to change direction because of the agitation caused by elections,” he said. “We must continue the reforms. To stop now would be to ruin of what has been accomplished.”

Sarkozy also rejected calls from within his own camp to end his policy of offering government jobs to members of the opposition. He said a plurality of views and “the spirit of a denial of partisanship” were in France’s interests.

The French president laid out his priorities for the final two years of his term. These included the maintenance of European subsidies for farmers, a reform of the French pension system and stiffer punishment for criminals.

Regarding the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), which provides large subsidies to French farmers, Sarkozy said he was willing “to risk a European crisis” rather than see the subsidies end.

He also said that France’s system of funding pensions was running “a deficit that continues to grow”, and that “just and necessary measures” to reform it would be introduced within six months.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers marched through the streets in some 180 cities to protest Sarkozy’s pension reform plans.

Filed under: Religion

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