French Niqab ban from April 11

  • The Guardian, Paris
  • |
  • Updated: Mar 04, 2011 23:22 IST

From Saudi tourists window-shopping on the Champs-Élysées to Muslim women in a departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport or the few young French converts on suburban estates, any woman who steps outside in France wearing a veil that covers her face will be breaking the law from next month.

France's bitterly divisive debate on Muslim women's clothing took a new turn when the legal details of the controversial "burqa ban" were published in a decree by the prime minister. From April 11 women will be banned from wearing the niqab - full-face Muslim veil - in any public place, including while walking down the street, taking a bus, at a bank, library or shop. It will be illegal for a woman in niqab to visit the Louvre, or any other museum, visit a hospital or collect her child from school.

Face veils will be outlawed virtually anywhere outside women's own homes, except when they are worshipping in a religious place or travelling as a passenger in a private car.

Women wearing niqab will be fined €150 (about £130) and be given a citizenship class to remind them of the republican values of secular France and gender equality.

The niqab ban, proposed by a communist MP but later championed by Nicolas Sarkozy and his rightwing ruling UMP party, has reopened the long-running debate over how the country with Europe's biggest Muslim community integrates Islam into its secular republic.


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