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French Parliament’s lower house brings down veil on burqas

Gives nod to a ban on burqa-like Islamic veils

14th July 2010: Five months after France made it clear that it wants the immigrants to sign a ‘no burqa’ contract before being allowed to live in the country, France’s lower house of Parliament has given its nod to a ban on burqa-like Islamic veils.

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The approval comes less than a week after justice minister argued hiding face from neighbours was a violation of French values.

In fact, Michele Alliot-Marie’s had kicked off a parliamentary debate with his speech at the National Assembly on the bill to bring down the veil on the practice of wearing burqas, even as French Muslims expressed concern over the issue.

In all, there were 336 votes for the Bill and just one against at the National Assembly. A substantial number of members from the main opposition group, the Socialist Party, did not participate in the vote.

The ban on face-covering veils will go to the Senate in September. The biggest stumbling block is expected to come when France’s constitutional watchdog examines it. As of now, the main body representing French Muslims says face-covering veils are not required by Islam, and has expressed apprehension the law will stigmatise all Muslims.

Some of the law scholars too are of the view a ban on burqa would violate the constitution.

Earlier a parliamentary investigation suggested ban on burqas in French public offices, hospitals, trains and buses.

The committee of inquiry rejected the demand of several members of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling centre-right party for an outright ban on the burka or niqab.

It was of the opinion that the possibility of such a ban being declared unconstitutional under French and European law could not be ruled out.

Segregating the issue from religion and security, Alliot-Marie last week said it has nothing to do with both. She added life in the French Republic was carried out with a bare face. It is a question of dignity, equality and transparency, she said in the speech.

Significantly, her speech hardly made a mention of Muslim veils, as apparently the language was carefully crafted not single out Muslims.

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