France bans niqab, hijab for Muslims but mandates face masks : Rough Translation The French republic "lives with her face uncovered," say the posters. But now face masks are mandatory. We look back at why covering your face in France used to be a sign of bad citizenship, until it wasn't.
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From Niqab To N95

From Niqab To N95

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A new French law requires masks be worn in certain public spaces, but it is still illegal to wear religious attire that covers the face. Halisia Hubbard/NPR hide caption

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Halisia Hubbard/NPR

A new French law requires masks be worn in certain public spaces, but it is still illegal to wear religious attire that covers the face.

Halisia Hubbard/NPR

In 2010, France passed a law prohibiting people from wearing clothing in public that covers your face. And although many blasted the law as Islamophobic, the "burqa ban" remains in place today, punishable with a fine and citizenship course.

But as the country begins to emerge from lockdown, wearing masks is mandatory in public places such as schools and on public transport. Shop owners can require customers to wear them as well. And while the government does not see any conflict between the laws - one is to promote gender equality and the other is to maintain public health - the situation has left many, including some French Muslims, smirking at the apparent irony.

In this episode of Rough Translation, we look at how the mask is changing the way people relate to each other in a country where until recently, it was your civic duty to show your face to all.

Further Context:

  • Read the Washington Post coverage on this topic.
  • Video: @otiisandjoy imagines a France where people are taking their masks on and off again and racking up fines in an endless circuit. [Original French or with English subtitles]