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France

Top legal body says law banning burqa could be challenged

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-04-02

France's top legal body said Tuesday that a ban on wearing the full Islamic veil would be vulnerable to legal challenge. President Nicolas Sarkozy's government had sought to ban full veils and had asked for legal advice before proposing legislation.

France’s top legal body warned the government Tuesday that a complete ban on the burqa in the home of Europe’s largest Muslim minority would be vulnerable to legal challenges.

"It appears to the State Council that a general and absolute ban on the full veil as such can have no incontestable judicial basis," the body said in a report submitted to Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

But it would be possible to “require that faces be uncovered in some places or for some procedures” involving interaction with the state or security officials, added the body.

The State Council, headed by Jean-Marc Sauve, is France’s top legal body that advises the government on proposed legislation.

‘Contrary to women’s dignity’

President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa, as well as other full face veils such as the niqab, as “contrary to women’s dignity,” and has been pressing for a bill to ban it.

The government had asked the State Council for a legal opinion after a parliamentary report called for a ban on the garment in all schools, hospitals, government offices and public transport.

Supporters of the ban say that the burqa goes against French values and embodies a form of creeping religious fundamentalism. But its opponents say the legislation is unnecessary, with less than 2,000 women in France actually wearing one, according to police reports.

France, home to a large number of immigrants and an estimated Muslim population of five million, has recently been the stage of a controversial debate on “national identity”.

The country has a history of rigid secularism, with church and state kept firmly apart. In 2004, the government of then-President Jacques Chirac placed a ban on conspicuous religious symbols, including headscarves, in public schools.

Date created : 2010-03-30

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