French lawmakers vote to ban burqa in public

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.

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