Reposted from the Belfast Telegraph
France’s lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burka-style Islamic veils, part of a determined effort to define and protect French values that has disconcerted many in the country’s large Muslim community.
The ban will now go to the Senate in September, where it is also likely to be approved. Its biggest hurdle is expected to come at the following stage, when France’s constitutional watchdog scrutinises it.
The issue has been debated across Europe, and Spain and Belgium have similar bans in the pipeline.
France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, about five million of the country’s 64 million, but while ordinary headscarves are common, only about 1,900 women are believed to wear the face-covering veils.
The main body representing French Muslims believes such veils are not suitable in France, but it fears the ban will stigmatise all Muslims.
Malika Hamidi, director general of the European Muslim Network think-tank, voiced concern that the ban’s backers are “playing up a feeling of fear of Islam” at a time when Europe is concerned about its changing identity, struggling to manage its diversity and dealing with an economic crisis.
In Tuesday’s vote at the National Assembly, there were 335 votes for the Bill and just one against it. Most members of the main opposition group, the Socialist Party, walked out and refused to vote, though they in fact support a ban.
The Bill bans face-covering veils everywhere that can be considered public space, even in the street, but the Socialists only want it in certain places, such as government buildings, hospitals and public transport.
France’s government has insisted that assimilation is the only path for immigrants and minorities, and last year it launched a grand nationwide debate on what it means to be French. The country has had difficulty integrating generations of immigrants and their children, as witnessed by weeks of rioting by youths, many of them minorities, in troubled neighbourhoods in 2005.
At the National Assembly, few dissenters spoke out about civil liberties or fears of fanning anti-Islam sentiment. Berengere Poletti, of President Sarkozy’s party, said face-covering veils “are a prison for women, they are the sign of their submission to their husbands, brothers or fathers.”
Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/french-parliament-backs-burkas-ban-14875607.html##ixzz0tf8W1pVi