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French parliamentary panel called for ban on veil


Tuesday, January 26, 2010 08:42:43 PM, Agencies

Only a small minority of Muslim women in France
are wearing the niqab

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Paris: A French parliamentary panel has called for a ban on Muslim women wearing the full Islamic veil in public institutions, describing the dress as an "unacceptable" challenge to French values.


In its report, released on Tuesday, the panel also recommended that authorities refuse residence cards and citizenship to anyone with visible signs of a "radical religious practice".


"The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess," it said.


The commission stopped short of a full ban on the veils, which it deemed unconstitutional, but said they should be banned from schools, hospitals and public transport.


It has called on parliament to adopt a formal resolution stating the all-encompassing veil is "contrary to the values of the republic".

But the opposition Socialists, who condemn the full veil, have said they would not endorse the final report, saying it would amount to an inconsistent "ad hoc law".


The report is likely to raise concerns that its recommendations will unfairly stigmatise France's Muslim population, estimated at about six million.


Of those, only about several thousand are thought to wear the niqab, which covers all of the face except the eyes.


Tuesday's report is the culmination of a six-month inquiry into the issue, after Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, said full-body veils were "not welcome" in the country.


The veil is widely viewed in France as a gateway to extremism, an insult to gender equality and an offense to France's secular foundation.


A 2004 French law bans Muslim headscarves from primary and secondary school classrooms.


Andre Gerin, chair of the parliamentary commission  and a communist politician said the "wearing of the full veil is the tip of the iceberg".


"There are scandalous practices hidden behind this veil," he said.


It is not yet clear whether the government, or parliament, will take up any or all of the report's recommendations.


Any action is not expected to come before March regional elections.







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