8th Dec 2023

French National Assembly bans burqa

  • French deputies ignored critics' charges that the legislation was targetting Muslims (Photo: FotoRita)

France has taken a major step toward becoming the second country in Europe to ban the burqa.

In a 335-to-one vote in favour of the bill in the 557-seat National Assembly, deputies ignored critics' charges that the legislation targets Muslims and endorsed plans to fine women for choosing to cover their face.

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Under the rules, which must be backed by the Senate in September before passing into force, women will be banned from wearing a full face veil such as the burqa or niqab in public.

Scofflaws would face fines of €150 for the first offence and men who force their wives to cover their faces would be slapped with an indemnity of €30,000 and a year in jail.

The opposition Socialists, who would have preferred that the bill only ban burqas from public buildings, abstained from the vote.

Although the bill does not make any explicit reference to Islam, many of France's 5 million Muslims argue that the legislation singles out their religion. Only a small minority - 1,900 women - of France's Muslims wear the full veil.

But the ban is massively popular from left to right, with some 82 percent of the French backing the law.

Belgium's lower house has also banned the burqa, while Spain announced in June it would ban the veil from public places for reasons of "security."

However, In March, France's Council of State, a senior government advisory body, warned that the bill could be unconsitutional. If the Senate approves the legislation, it will be reviewed by the country's Constitutional Court.

The Council of Europe has also warned such laws infringe upon individual freedom. They are likely to challenged by the European Court of Human Rights.

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