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France: Senior Sarkozy ally calls for law to ban burqa in public

Wednesday 23 December 2009, by siawi2

French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling party should draft a law to ban the wearing of face-covering veils in certain public places, its parliamentary leader has said.

Jean-François Copé said the “great majority†of French people believed the full veil was “incompatible with the values of the republic†and insisted there was a need to defend the country’s principles against “extremists†.

“Masking one’s face in public spaces is not an expression of individual liberty,†Mr Copé wrote in yesterday’s Le Figaro. “It’s a negation of oneself, a negation of others, a negation of social life.â€

A parliamentary committee is due to recommend measures next month to prevent women from wearing face-covering veils, which Mr Sarkozy recently said “have no place in France†.

“The issue is not how many women wear the burqa,†Mr Copé wrote. “There are principles at stake: extremists are testing the republic by encouraging a practice that they know is contrary to the basic principles of our country.â€

He stressed that consultations would take place with Muslim communities in France and sought to separate the issue from immigration and religion and to frame it as “a law of liberation and not a ban†.

Many of the growing numbers in France who wore the full veil – about 2,000 – were born in the country, Mr Copé observed, while the face-covering veil “is rejected in most Muslim countries†.

“Muslim representatives in France have a very clear position, which matches that of the great majority of our citizens, for whom the burqa is not compatible with life in society, or with the values of the republic.â€

Mr Copé conceded that a complete ban could face legal obstacles – a reference to possible challenges before the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds it obstructed religious freedom.

The Irish Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

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