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Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 20:31 UK

French parliament condemns full Islamic face veil

Woman wearing niqab, file pic
President Sarkozy says the full Islamic veil oppresses women

The French parliament has voted to condemn the full Islamic face veil, calling it "an affront to the nation's values of dignity and equality".

The non-binding resolution was passed unanimously, although 30 communist deputies walked out in protest.

Legislation to ban the full-face veil in public is expected later this year.

The proposal has provoked intense debate about religious freedom in a secular society, and the position of Muslims in France.

The resolution puts France on course to become the second European country after Belgium to declare the wearing of such veils illegal in public places.

Oppresive to women?

President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered parliament to debate a ban last month. He has described veils that conceal the face as oppressive to women and not welcome in France.

But opponents say a ban could alienate and stigmatise France's large Muslim minority, and the country's highest administrative body - the State Council - has suggested it might be unconstitutional.

The council said in March that any such law could be a violation of the French constitution as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

But it added that rules requiring faces to be uncovered in public places could be justified for security reasons and to combat fraud.

Headscarves

The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in a myriad of styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf. The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf. The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear. The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.
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In January, a French parliamentary committee recommended a partial ban on such garments that could be imposed in hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport.

There are several types of headscarves and veils for Muslim women - those that cover the face being the niqab and the burka. In France, the niqab is the version most commonly worn.

The interior ministry says only 1,900 women wear full-face veils in France, out of a Muslim population of more than five million.



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France rejects veiled Muslim wife
12 Jul 08 |  Europe



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