The head of Croatia's Islamic Society has criticized France's banning of the burqa, saying the move can be construed as a proof of France's enmity towards Muslims.
Last week, Paris declared that any woman -- French or foreigner -- who wears a niqab or burqa in public will be fined 150 euros and those who force women to wear such covers will face a much larger fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.
Meanwhile, head of Croatia's Islamic Society Sheikh Shafko Omar Bashic told the Vjesnik newspaper in Zagreb that since French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to power four years ago, an atmosphere of intolerance towards Muslims has started to bubble up in France, which is home to five million Muslims.
Muslims in France have, for many years, suffered from inequality and injustice and now the government has brought up concerns over face veils and headscarves as the most important issue facing the country, a move which can only be interpreted as an obvious animosity toward Muslims, the scholar stated.
On April 5, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant referred to the number of Muslims in the country as “a problem” during a debate on the role of Islam in the French society.
Gueant's remark provoked the fury of Muslims and human rights groups amid growing speculations that Sarkozy is struggling to rebuild his waning popularity through promoting such debates as part of a wider agenda to poach votes from the far-right National Front party, which routed Sarkozy's center-right coalition in the country's local elections in late March.
Amid the heated debates in France over the implementation of the ban on burqa, France's National Commission of Human Rights said in a recent report that 36 percent of all acts of racism in the country are directed toward North Africans.
This is while there is a similar ban in Belgium and lawmakers in the Netherlands are also working on a bill to forbid women from covering their faces in schools and government institutions.
Asked about his position on the likelihood of the banning of burqa in Croatia, Sheikh Shafko Omar Bashic said he would reject such measure.
He insisted that wearing headscarves in some societies is entrenched in their cultural background and racial origin, and thus cannot be taken away from them.