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Doha Forum discusses French veil ban
A session titled “national identity, immigration and faith” at the Doha Forum yesterday raised several controversial issues ranging from the French ban on the Muslim face veil, the pro-Israeli foreign policy of the US and the perceived threat posed by the large expatriate workforce in the Gulf to the local populations that have been reduced to a numerical minority.
The session saw two politicians from France and the US airing opposing views on the issue of the veil and two academicians from the Gulf raising serious concerns about losing identity of the local populations in the region.
Eric Raoult, former French Minister, MP and members of the French Qatari Friendship Society in France, in his speech , defended the ban imposed by the French government on the Muslim face veil — commonly called Niqab — saying that majority of the Muslims in France were not in favour of wearing the full veil.
“The face veil is a new phenomenon in France which was not there about seven years ago. Some 500 to 2,000 Muslims in the country wear the full veil… It is not made compulsory for Muslim women by the Quran. France didn’t ban other forms of the veil,” said Raoult, while elaborating on the political processes that culminated in the ban imposed by President Nicholas Sarkozy.
France has the largest Muslim community in Europe (six million) who are “sharing our French ideals of cultural diversity and peaceful co-existence,” he added.
“France has allowed construction of mosques. Islam is not in confrontation with France, which has stood beside the Arabs,”
said Raoult
James Moran, a US Congressman, in his intervention at the question-answer session criticised the French ban on the veil describing it as “offensive:”
He argued that diverse communities and cultures within a society will naturally learn how to integrate with the values and customs of that society.
“The main problem we are facing in America is not with the system but that communities like Muslims and Arabs do not get properly involved in the system,” said Moran.
Earlier in his speech, Moran said a shift in the Israeli-centered US policy should come “from within the American citizens, especially the Arab and Muslim communities.”
Moran, who was severely critical of Monday’s Israeli attack on the aid ship heading towards Gaza, said the Arab and Muslim communities were emerging as a new force in the US, that could in future curtail the influence of the Jewish lobby.
He said he himself could survive in the Congress due to the support of the Muslim community in his constituency despite his criticisms against the US invasion of Iraq and the continuing Israeli settlements in Palestine.
Dr Hassan Al Ansari from Qatar and Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla from the UAE shared the widespread fear and concern among Gulf citizens about the growing expatriate populations in the region.
“Are we too tolerant or just irresponsible toward the threats posed to our national identity,” asked Abdulla, noting that native populations in the Gulf were drastically declining compared to the foreign workforce.
Although there is no confrontation between the two segments presently, he doubted how long this situation would sustain, with the local population enjoying all political and social rights and the foreigners complaining about denial of such rights.
“International community is now putting pressure on the GCC countries to grant nationality to the immigrant workers…. There is a deep- rooted fear among the citizens about what is in store for the future, while the foreigners are asking for more rights and privileges,” said Abdullah.

Source :-The Peninsula
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