Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

France Socialist party opposes burka ban

Woman wearing niqb, file pic
A parliamentary report on the burka debate is due out later this month

France's opposition Socialists have come out against a law banning the burka - even though they remain firmly opposed to the garment.

The announcement comes ahead of a parliamentary report on the issue that is due out later this month.

Last summer, French MPs held hearings on whether to ban the Muslim veil, which covers the body from head to toe.

President Nicolas Sarkozy had said the burka was "not welcome" in France, home to Europe's largest Muslim population.

Mr Sarkozy has left open the idea of introducing legislation to ban the burka.

While the Socialist Party opposes the wearing of the burka, it was "not favourable" to a legal ban, said party spokesman Benoit Hamon.

"We are totally opposed to the burka," he told French radio. "The burka is a prison for women and has no place in the French Republic. But an ad-hoc law would not have the anticipated effect."

Jean-Francois Cope, the parliamentary leader of Mr Sarkozy's party, has said he would put forward a bill this month banning the wearing of the veil in public, as a means of defending France against "extremists".

In 2004, France controversially banned Muslim headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools and by public employees.

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