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Parliamentary debate begins in France on burqa ban

`Hiding face from neighbours is a violation of French values’

7th 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 justice minister argued hiding face from neighbours was a violation of French values.

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With Michele Alliot-Marie’s speech at the National Assembly, parliamentary debate has started on the bill to bring down the veil on the practice of wearing burqas, even as French Muslims have expressed concern over the issue.

Some of the law scholars too are of the view a ban on burqa would violate the constitution. Already, 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 now said it has nothing to do with both. But 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.

Otherwise also, it is officially called "the bill to forbid covering one’s face in public".
Families minister Nadine Morano had earlier said equality between men and women was a fundamental principle of French society; and it applies to polygamy, forced marriages, female mutilation and the full-face veil.

Back home, the UK Independence party has already described burka as a symbol of something used to oppress women. Nigel Farage, who heads the UK Independence party’s 13 MEPs, recently asserted he was not in favour of Muslim women covering their faces. Besides security reasons, they were also a symbol of a divided Britain, he had added.

The British national party (BNP) too has adopted a motion for banning burka from public view.

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