Monday, July 5, 2010

French parliament to vote on proposed veil ban

One step closer to a Burqa Ban .

(Reuters) - A French bill to ban full-face veils worn by some Muslim women in public will go to parliament on Tuesday, bringing closer a measure which critics argue is hard to enforce and may be unconstitutional.

Supporters of a ban on full-face veils in France, home to the European Union's largest Muslim minority, argue that wearing garments which hide women's faces violates the republican ideals of secularism and gender equality.

Opponents say only a tiny minority of Muslim women wear the full veil, known as a niqab or burqa, and that the legislation is a step toward tighter restraints on individual freedom.

France already bans Muslim headscarves and other religious symbols from schools.

"It's going to increase feelings of being ostracized in part of the Muslim community, even parts where women don't wear the niqab," said Jean Bauberot, sociologist at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes at Paris' Sorbonne University.

Most voters back a ban, polls have shown, but legal experts warn it could violate the constitution. The Council of State, the top administrative court which advises the government on the preparation of new laws, said in March a ban could be unlawful.

"We were opposed to the veil even before the start of the debate...and we think that a general ban is absolutely not the solution," said Mohammed Moussaoui, President of the French Muslim Council.

Amnesty International called on parliamentarians to reject the ban.

"A total ban on covering the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of women who wear the burqa or the niqab in public as an expression of their identity or their convictions," John Dalhuisen, expert on discrimination in Europe at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Parliament will begin debating the four-article bill on Tuesday and a vote on it on July 13.

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