France determined to ban burqa amid raging controversy
Despite the raging controversy over full burqa ban in public places, the French government said Tuesday will go ahead with the plan, saying that it is not a matter of religion but a matter of dignity for women, Xinhua reported.
French government is working on a law to ban burqa, a kind of head-to-toe Islamic veil used by Muslim women, in all public spaces, including schools, town halls, hospitals and public transport.
The final draft of the ban is scheduled to be presented to and approved by the cabinet on May 19, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday.
After that, French parliament will begin debate in early July on the bill before making it a state law.
French right wing President Nicolas Sarkozy has given full support to the move, saying burqa or niqab was "not welcome" in secular France.
The government spokesman Luc Chatel said: "wearing a full veil is a sign of a community closing in on itself and a rejection of our values," echoing Sarkozy's stand that the full-body veil hurts the dignity of women and equality between both sexes.
However, the French State Council, the country's administrative authority of the highest level, last month warned that a general and absolute ban on the full veil has no incontestable judicial basis.
The council suggested instead an order that women uncover their faces for identity checks or for state business, as a complete ban may challenge the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that it violates freedom of religion.
According to the Interior Ministry, there are about 1,900 to 2, 000 Muslim women hiding their faces with veils in France, which is a comparatively small figures, considering that France is the home to the biggest European Muslim community.
Though some analysts said the ban is meaningless, the French government is determined to implement the law and has taken real action on the issue.
France has rejected a foreign national's citizenship application because he had forced his French wife to wear burqa and recently a woman was fined for wearing a full Islamic veil while driving.
Moreover, France intends to expand this restriction to Muslim tourists, which is sure to raise more international concern, as Arabic ladies wearing face-covering veils are not rare in Paris's luxury shops.
Last week, the Deputy Family Minister Nadine Morano said on radio France Info that it was normal for foreign tourists to respect the law of the visiting country.
According to a survey published on Monday, 70 percent of the French people support the veil ban while 26 percent opposed it.
Meanwhile Belgium is also preparing legislation against wearing burqa, with its parliament starting a plenary session later this week on a full veil ban.