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French parliament condemns full Islamic face veil

11 May 10 19:31 GMT

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.

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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