France should denounce, ban Muslim face veils: panel
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
PARIS (Reuters) - France's National Assembly should pass a resolution denouncing full Muslim face veils and then vote the strictest law possible to ban women from wearing them, a parliamentary commission proposed on Tuesday.
Presenting conclusions after six months of hearings, the panel also suggested barring foreign women from obtaining French visas or citizenship if they insisted on veiling their faces.
But it could not agree whether to opt for an absolute ban on the veils, called burqas or niqabs, or one restricted to public buildings because some members thought a total ban would be unconstitutional.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who last year declared full veils unwelcome in France, said on a visit to a cemetery for Muslim soldiers that he would not allow Muslims to be stigmatized by any measures taken to ensure equality between men and women.
"The full veil represents in an extraordinary way everything that France spontaneously rejects," National Assembly President Bernard Accoyer said as the commission delivered its report.
"It's a symbol of the subjugation of women and the banner of extremist fundamentalism."
While not defending the all-enclosing veils, leaders of the five-million-strong Muslim minority say a legal ban would be excessive since only 1,900 women are said to wear them.
Jamel Debbouze, a highly popular Parisian-born comedian of Moroccan background, condemned the plan as xenophobic. "People who go down that path are racists," he told French radio. Continued...