French party to field veiled candidate in election

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The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) is putting forward a Muslim candidate for the Vaucluse region of southern France for the March polls.

Paris – A left-wing French party said Wednesday it was putting forward a veiled candidate in upcoming regional elections, adding to a fierce national debate over the wearing of the Islamic garb.

The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) said the Muslim woman, reported to be a student, wears a "light veil".

She is on the party's list for the Vaucluse region of southern France for the March polls.

In a statement, the NPA said she was "a militant feminist, anticapitalist and internationalist, who believes she must wear the veil in accordance with her religious convictions."

It said faith was "a private matter" for its members as long as it did not infringe the party's basic secular, feminist and anti-capitalist values.

News of her candidacy comes in the midst of a national debate over what it means to be French, with the government seeking to legislate for a ban on the head-to-toe burqa on the grounds that it is incompatible with French values.

A recent survey showed 57 percent of French people were in favour of a law banning the full veil, and a parliament report has suggested it be outlawed in schools, hospitals, government offices and public transport.

The wider debate over identity has divided society, with critics arguing it is fomenting anti-foreigner and anti-Muslim sentiment and is little more than an attempt to grab far-right votes.

Marine Le Pen, deputy leader of the far-right National Front, said the NPA was pulling an electoral stunt to seek the votes of French Muslims.

Earlier this week, the government said it had refused French nationality to a man who forced his wife to wear the burqa, arguing his attitude did not fit with French values on secularism and equal rights.

AFP / Expatica

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