French MPs to denounce Muslim veils, ban later

France’s parliament is likely to call in a resolution for a ban on Muslim face veils in public but take longer to turn that policy into law, deputies said on Thursday.

A parliamentary commission studying the sensitive issue, which has been discussed alongside a wider public debate about French national identity launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy, is due to publish its recommendations next Tuesday.

Polls say most voters want a legal ban on full-length face veils, known here by the Afghan term burqa although the few worn in France are Middle Eastern niqabs showing the eyes. Critics say a law would stigmatize Muslims and be unenforceable.

Jean-Francois Cope, parliamentary floor leader for Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party, told France Inter radio said the plan was for “a resolution to explain and then a law to decide.” A parliamentary resolution would not be legally binding.

Andre Gerin, head of the commission, agreed that deputies needed more time to draft a law, but told the daily Le Figaro: “The ban on the full facial veil will be absolute.”

Police reports say fewer than 2,000 women in France wear full veils, but deputies such as Gerin – whose constituency in Lyon has many Muslim residents – insist this is a growing trend that Paris must legislate to stop in its tracks.

Gerin said France also had to deal with “the French Taliban who force women to be veiled. By ‘Taliban’ I mean the husband, big brother, family, even the neighborhood, because there is a kind of sharia (Islamic law) in some areas. The full veil is the visible part of this black tide of fundamentalism.”

Reuters, 21 January 2010