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MUSLIM WORLD: Burqa ban proposal may roil France, heat up clash of cultures

January 26, 2010 | 10:21 am


A French parliamentary commission released a potentially explosive report today recommending that France ban certain attire worn by Muslim women from some public spaces, calling all-covering veils "contrary to the values of the republic."

According to the commission, cited by Agence France-Presse, the commission recommends that women be barred from wearing veils such as burqas or niqabs that cover their faces in government offices and on public transport.

"The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic," said the report, written by 32 lawmakers after six months of hearings. "This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess."

The recommendation has already upset some Muslims and civil liberties advocates. It follows Switzerland's move to ban mosque minarets and signs of increasing European unease with Muslim immigrants. 

But many of France's Muslims are hardly immigrants. Most are French citizens of Moroccan, Tunisian or Algerian descent who have lived in France for generations.

Passage of a law might mean that women wearing the burqa could be booted from subways or government offices. French courts might easily overturn any such rules as unconstitutional, experts have said.

The French commission insisted that "all of France is saying 'no' to the full veil" even as opposition socialists declared they would oppose any move to ban the burqa.

Jamel Debbouze, a Parisian-born comedian of Moroccan descent, told French radio that those who advocated such a ban were "racists," according to Reuters.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Women wearing the niqab shop in the old city of Sana, the capital of Yemen. Credit: Borzou Daragahi / Los Angeles Times