The French Senate has passed 246 to 1 a bill which bans burqa style Islamic veil on public streets and other places. The measure affects less than 2000 women but this move is widely seen as a defence of French values. By passing the bill, the Senate has taken a final step towards making this bill a law, although now it has to pass through France’s constitutional watchdog.
Many Muslims think that the bill is one more blow to the freedom of practising their religion in France and it risks raising the anti-islamic feelings where the mosques are the targets of hate.
However, the supporters of the law say that the bill will help to preserve the secure foundations and notions of fraternity. It will also preserve the nation’s values.
Both parliamentary houses said that they have asked constitutional council to ensure that the bill is constitutional to head off any legal challenges over arguments it tramples on religious and other freedoms. The Council has one month to decide.
The bill is worded carefully to pass through legal minefields. In any of its seven articles, the words ”women”, ”Muslim” and ”veil” are not even mentioned.
Although other European countries like Belgium are considering the laws against face and body covering veils, as its conflicts with the local culture, France would be the first European country to pass such a law.
The measure would outlaw face-covering veils, including those worn by tourists from the Middle East, on public streets and elsewhere.
The bill allows for fines of €150 ($200) and compulsory citizenship classes for any woman caught covering her face.
There are stiff penalties – fines of €30,000 and a year in prison – for anyone, such as husbands or brothers, convicted of forcing the veil on a woman.