Full-veil ban likely coming to France in May 2010

The French government will seek to ban Muslim women from wearing full-face veils in public despite warnings from experts that such a law could be unconstitutional. A spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government 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.

“We’re legislating for the future. Wearing a full veil is a sign of a community closing in on itself and of a rejection of our values,” Luc Chatel told reporters, on leaving a Cabinet meeting chaired by Mr. Sarkozy. Prime Minister Francois Fillon insisted the government would go ahead anyway, taking the risk that the eventual text would be struck down by the constitutional court, because of the importance of the issue.

There is strong support in parliament for such a ban and the government is determined to press on with a law, which it says would affect about 2,000 Muslim French women who cover their faces. According to Mr. Chatel, Mr. Sarkozy told his Cabinet the veil was an “assault on women’s dignity.”

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