Burka ban voted for in France

Yesterday, the majority of the French lower house of parliament has voted for making it illegal for the burka to be worn in public. In a 557-seat National Assembly, 335 voted for the ban and only one voted against. The decision means that the proposal will be ratified by the Senate in September and may well become the law.

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Despite the ban having strong public support in France, there are estimated to be only 2,000 women who wear the full veil, although many of the country's five million Muslims are opposed to the ban.

The ban would make it illegal for the burka or niqab - any item that covers the face - to be worn in public and proposes fines of up to 150 euros ((£119) for women who break the law. Men who force their wives to wear the full veil will be fined 30,000 euros and be sentenced to one year in jail.

Many ministers in France are strongly opposed to the full veil. Andre Gerin from the Communist opposition described the burka as "a walking coffin, a muzzle".

Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie presented the bill to the National Assembly last week saying that "democracy thrives when it is open-faced."

She claimed that the bill was not aimed at Muslims nor was it aimed to "stigmatising or singling out a religion".

Critics of the bill disagree. Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which is a government advisory body, believes that the band will do just that.

Socialist MP Jean Glavany opposed the ban describing it as "nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren't like us, who don't share our values".

However the bill has yet to become law and must first pass the Senate. It will then be sent to France's Constitutional Council where it may yet be found to be unconstitutional. And finally the European Court of Human Rights may yet challenge the law.

But the majority vote for the bill has been enough for the idea to spread to other countries and now Spain and Belgium are considering similar bans. The UK has also been discussing the ban.

What do you think? Should wearing the full veil be made illegal or should people be allowed to practice their customs as they wish? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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