France denies citizenship to Moroccan man over burka

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A Moroccan immigrant has been denied French citizenship after admitting that he forced his wife to wear a burka, French officials announced this week.

The decision, heralded by officials of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, was the latest round in a public debate over the Muslim garment for women and French national identity.

“This individual imposes the full veil upon his wife, does not allow her the freedom to go and come as she pleases and bans her from going out with her face unveiled, and rejects the principles of secularism and equality between man and woman,” Immigration Minister Eric Besson was quoted as saying Wednesday.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in a radio news report that the immigrant had failed to “respect the values” of France.

Last week, a French parliamentary commission recommended a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils in the country. If the legislation is approved, full-body coverings such as the burka would be banned in schools, hospitals, government offices and on public transport.

The committee argued that forcing women to cover their faces goes against the French republic’s values of secularism and equality.

But many critics of the proposed burka ban view it as a cynical attack on immigrants meant to curry favor with conservative voters in March local elections.

Meanwhile, on Islamic fundamentalist blogs, the Moroccan immigrant, who has not been named, has been praised as a hero.

“May Allah reward the brother who sacrificed the French citizenship and related material benefits for the sake of implementing the practice of” his faith, said one commentator.

Some have tried to cast the crackdown as a women’s rights issue. French lawmaker Andre Gerin called the burka a “walking prison” for women.

Legislation has been proposed that would criminalize even verbal abuse as domestic violence. If the bill is approved, France would be the first country to ban “psychological violence” in marriages.

Sandels is a special correspondent.