Man who forced veil on wife can't become French

Tue Feb 2, 2010 3:43pm EST
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - The French government has refused to give citizenship to a foreigner who has forced his French wife to wear a full-face Islamic veil, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said on Tuesday.

The announcement came just days after a parliamentary commission called for a law to ban the wearing of head-to-toe veils in public places, such as schools, hospitals and government offices.

Besson said in a statement that investigations had shown that the foreign man, whose name was not given, was making his French wife wear the veil.

"He was depriving her of her liberty to come and go with her face uncovered and rejected the principles of secularism and equality between men and women," he said.

Le Figaro newspaper said the man, who needs French citizenship to settle here with his wife, came from Morocco.

The debate over whether to ban the full-face veil has proved highly controversial, with critics arguing that it risked stereotyping France's large Muslim community.

French police say only about 1,900 women wear the full veils, known here as burqas although almost all are Arab-style niqabs showing the eyes.

The French Catholic Church warned the government on Monday against banning the veils, saying France must respect the rights of its Muslims if it wanted Islamic countries to do the same for their Christian minorities.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer)