French Parliament passes bill to ban wearing full veil in public spaces

September 15th, 2010 - 3:47 am ICT by BNO News  

PARIS, FRANCE (BNO NEWS) The French Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to ban women from wearing burka or niqab (Islamic full face veils) as lawmakers consider it to be a threat to women’s rights, local media reported.

According to France24 news, France’s Constitutional Council has one month to ratify the legislation before it comes into force next spring. The bill was passed in the Senate by 246 votes to one. On July 13, the French lower house passed the legislation.

The legislation does not mention Islam at all and the French government claimed that the bill was enacted in order to protect women from being forced to wear Muslim full-face veils. Once ratified, there will be a six-month period of education to explain to women the consequences of wearing a burqa or niqab.

The legislation will establish fines of 150 euros (£199) or a course of citizenship lessons for women who break the law, and 30,000 euros and a jail-term for men who force their wives to wear the burka.

“This is not about security or religion, but respecting our republican principles. France, land of secularism, guarantees respect for all religions (but) hiding the face under a face-covering veil is against public social order, whether it is forced or voluntary,” said Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

France estimates that about 2,000 women in France use a burka or niqab. France has one of the biggest Muslim communities in Europe. Other countries like Spain and Belgium are still thinking about passing a similar legislation.

However, the policy has been condemned and criticized by both the United States and Al-Qaeda. President Barack Obama and Islamist militant Ayman al-Zawahiri have criticized the French government’s decision as an insult to the Muslim world.

Many opposition leaders said that the ban is only a symbol of fear and discrimination. Jean Glavany, a Socialist Member of the Parliament, said that the ban is “nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren’t like us, who don’t share our values”.

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