PARIS, (Reuters) – Muslim women could be fined for wearing full-length veils in public in France under a bill approved overwhelmingly yesterday by the lower house of parliament.
The legislation, which still has to be vetted by the Constitutional Council, France’s highest constitutional authority, and approved by the Senate in September, could make France the second European country to criminalise wearing the burqa or niqab.
France is home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, with about 5 million Muslims, but it is thought that only about 2,000 women wear the full-length veil.
The bill, which critics say stigmatises immigrants, bans people “from wearing, in a public place, garments designed to cover the face”.
Offenders would be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class.
Forcing someone to cover their face would be punishable by a one-year prison sentence and a 30,000 euro fine. The law does not apply if the face is covered for carnivals or artistic events.
In the vote, 335 members of parliament approved the ban, with just one against. Opposition socialist and Green lawmakers abstained. Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the approval was a success for French republican values of liberty, equality, fraternity and secularism.