The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fr. Samir on the French Burqa Ban

If you've been following the news out of Europe, you might have heard about the overwhelming vote by the French parliament in July to ban the wearing of the burqa, an outerwear garment that covers the woman's entire body with the exception of the eyes and hands.. The ban is actually on anything that covers the face; but, of course, the burqa worn by fundamentalist Muslim women is the most common face covering in France and the primary target of the new law.

I'll admit I really knew very little about the whys and wherefores of wearing the burqa and had read lots of conflicting reports and commentaries about the law. But one thing I found interesting was that the law was passed with only one dissenting vote in a parliament of 500 ministers. (The socialists didn't vote for or against the law, but simply abstained -- the kind of politically safe vote common on the left.) This virtually unanimous support for the law told me there was a lot I didn't know, that perhaps there was something deeper going on here than some kind of stereotypical French reaction to the covering up of women.

This hunch of mine was confirmed a few moments ago when I came across an article by Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J., a rather remarkable Jesuit who is an expert on Islam and professor of Muslim Studies at both the Papal Oriental Institute in Rome and at the Centre Sèvres (Jesuit Faculty of Theology and Philosophy) in Paris. He's also the author of over 40 books and hundreds of articles, most on the Middle East, Islam, and Eastern Christianity. I've read only two of his books -- one on Islam and another on the history of early Eastern Christianity -- and perhaps a half-dozen of his articles, but found them all extremely interesting. I referred to Fr. Samir and one of his books in an earlier post (last December).

This particular article by Fr. Samir was published last month on the website of and is really quite revealing. It not only discusses the history and tradition of the burqa, but also addresses why the French ministers voted as they did. I won't take the time to summarize the article since you can read it for yourself easily enough. Here's the link: French ban on burqa a welcome law!


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