Washington: France`s ban on full-face veils makes a big deal out of garb worn by only a tiny fraction of Muslim women in the West, the head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference said on Tuesday.
"Those who wear burqas, particularly in European or Western countries, are a very small minority, and I don`t understand that you pass legislation to forbid that," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told reporters at the US-Islamic World forum.
"You`re shining a light on very few people and making a big issue out of this. I think this is a small issue and doesn`t need all this attention."
On Monday, France became the first country in Europe to apply a ban on the wearing of full-face coverings, including the niqab.
Since the law took effect, a handful of women have been fined or given written warnings about wearing burqas in public -- but they have grabbed headlines.
French officials estimate that only around 2,000 women, from a total Muslim population estimated at up to six million, wear full-face veils.
Belgium`s Parliament has also approved a law banning the all-concealing veils in public, but has yet to enforce it. Far-right leaders in the Netherlands have proposed a burqa ban and in Italy, the right-wing Northern League is lobbying for a ban based on the French model.
"Europe is starting to be not the land of freedom but the land of prohibitions," said Ihsanoglu at the conference in Washington, which aims to foster greater understanding between Muslims and Americans.