Sarkozy tells lawmakers to prepare burqa bill

14th January 2010, Comments 0 comments

The French president calls on members of the National Assembly to first adopt a resolution that would unequivocally condemn the wearing of the head-to-toe burqa as an affront to women's rights.

Paris – French President Nicolas Sarkozy told lawmakers Wednesday that parliament should pass a bill banning the full Islamic veil but said the measure must be handled carefully so as not to stigmatise Muslims.

Sarkozy called on members of the National Assembly to first adopt a resolution that would unequivocally condemn the wearing of the head-to-toe burqa as an affront to women's rights.

"Parliament will then have to debate a draft bill that is adapted to the situation," he said at the meeting with lawmakers at the Elysee presidential palace.

Re-stating that the full veil is not "welcome in France," Sarkozy cautioned that any new legislation must be able to stand up to legal challenges in court.

"We must be careful and not offer an opportunity to the opponents of democracy, dignity and gender equality to score a victory, which would place our society in a very difficult situation," he said.

"It is essential that no one feels stigmatised" by the new law, Sarkozy said.

A parliamentary commission that has been holding hearings on whether to ban the full veil, known as the niqab or burqa, is due to present its much-awaited report on 26 January.

The panel of 32 lawmakers is expected to recommend that new legislation be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the burqa, but the measure is likely to invoke security concerns to prohibit the masking of faces.

Many politicians from the left and right have cautioned that a draconian law banning the veil would be difficult to enforce and probably face a challenge in the European rights court.

Home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, France has been debating whether to ban the burqa that is worn by a small group of women -- about 1,900 -- according to the interior ministry.

AFP / Expatica

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