Paris: As France`s Parliament debates whether
to ban burqa-like Muslim veils, one lawmaker compares them to
muzzles, or "walking coffins". Another proclaims that women
who wear them must be liberated, even against their will.
Amid little resistance, France`s Lower House of
Parliament will likely approve a ban on face-covering veils
on Monday, and the Senate will probably follow suit in September.
Polls show voters overwhelmingly support a ban. In
Parliament, criticism was mostly timid, and relatively few
dissenters spoke out about civil liberties or fears of fanning
anti-Islam sentiment in a country where there are an estimated
five million Muslims, and where mainstream society has struggled
to integrate generations of immigrants.
One obstacle, however, may still stand in the way of a
ban: the courts.
Law scholars say the ban could be shot down by France`s
constitutional watchdog or the European Court of Human Rights.
That could dampen efforts under way in other European
countries toward banning the veils.
It would also be a humiliation for President Nicolas
Sarkozy`s conservative government, which has devoted much
attention to a Bill that would affect only an estimated 1,900
women in France.
The main body representing French Muslims says
face-covering veils are not required by Islam and not suitable
in France, but it worries that the law will stigmatise Muslims