Sarkozy's party to present bill on Islamic veil ban in all public places

France's ruling party plans to present a bill on banning full Islamic veils in all public places, in a move could spark harsh criticisms from human rights bodies.

Sarkozy's party to present bill on Islamic veil ban in all public places

France's ruling UMP party plans to present a bill to parliament in January on banning full Islamic veils in all public places and not just in certain buildings, in a move could spark harsh criticisms from human rights bodies, senior party official said on Tuesday.

The bill would be accompanied by a resolution related to respect for women, Jean-Francois Cope, the parliamentary party leader of President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP, told a news conference.

Earlier, he conceded in an opinion piece that a complete ban faced certain legal obstacles, still arguing, permanently masking one's face in public spaces is not an expression of individual "liberty."

Both propositions would be handed to parliament during the first two weeks of January, before the conclusions of a French parliamentary inquiry into the all-covering niqab and burqa are published.

Universities, streets and public transport would not be touched by the ban, which in any case would affect only a small group of people -- the number of women in France who wear the niqab or the burqa is estimated at a few hundred.

Earlier this year, France's proposal to make full veils illegal sparked an outcry.

France has been moving towards outlawing full Islamic veils in certain public buildings and had appeared to stop short of a broader ban that could violate religious freedom and deepen a rift in the government.

Most politicians are waiting for the results of the parliamentary inquiry before deciding on the need for a law.

A complete ban could meet with legal obstacles. Switzerland's ban on minarets, for example, has been challenged before the European Court of Human Rights.

The French government is already facing internal dissent over a campaign to discuss national identity that has attracted accusations of racism, and a burqa law could be a difficult sell.

Despite having Europe's biggest Muslim minority, France set up the special panel six months ago to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full-face veil, known as a burqa or niqab.

A panel of 32 lawmakers from across the spectrum report next month after hearing the views of Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, Immigration Minister Eric Besson and Education Minister Xavier Darcos later on Wednesday.


Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2009, 10:46
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