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 5 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 1,90 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 in general.