France veil ban will apply to Muslim tourists too: minister

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Muslim tourists in France will be forbidden to wear the full-face veil along with French residents under the government's plan to ban the garment in public places, a minister said on Thursday.

"When you arrive in France, you respect the laws in force.... Everyone will have to respect the laws in France. That's how it is," Nadine Morano, a junior minister for families, said on the radio station France Info.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to France each year from the Middle East, according to estimates from the tourism ministry, and veiled women are a common sight in the luxury stores on Paris shopping boulevards.

Morano said women breaching the ban would be fined but would not be unveiled "on the spot".

Morano said the planned ban was in line with France's secular principles but also aimed to give "a message at international level" and would apply equally to visitors from abroad.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government announced Wednesday it will ban the wearing in public of the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women, despite a warning from experts that such a law could be unconstitutional.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel said a bill would be presented to ministers in May and would seek to ban the niqab and the burqa from streets, shops and markets and not just from public buildings.

Last month, the State Council -- France's top administrative authority -- warned against a full ban on the veil, suggesting instead an order that women uncover their faces for security checks or meetings with officials.

The government says only around 2,000 Muslim French women currently cover their faces, but the niqab, which covers the face apart from the eyes, is widely worn on the Arabian peninsular and in the Gulf states.

© 2010 AFP

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