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France votes to ban burqa

world Updated: Jul 14, 2010 01:06 IST

France's lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on burqa-like Islamic veils on Tuesday, a move that is popular among French voters despite serious concerns from Muslim groups and human rights advocates.

There were 336 votes for the bill and just one against it at the National Assembly.

The ban on face-covering veils will go to the Senate in September, where it also is likely to pass. Its biggest hurdle will
likely come after that, when France's constitutional watchdog scrutinises it. Some legal scholars say there is a chance it
could be deemed unconstitutional.

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 in general. France has Europe's largest Muslim population, estimated to be about 5 million of the country's 64 million people.

The full veil "is the banner of a sectarian ideology" and threatens "human dignity," the head of French women's rights group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, Sihem Habchi, wrote in an essay in Tuesday's Liberation daily.