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France constitutional court strikes down laws legalizing Islamic finance instruments

The French Constitutional Court [official website, in French] on Wednesday struck down [decision, in French] two articles in a small and medium enterprise (SME) access to credit law that would have legalized Islamic law compliant financial instruments in France. Socialist Party (PS) [party website, in French] members of the National Assembly [official website, in French] petitioned the court to review two articles that would have legalized Sharia-compliant sukuk, securities that have been likened to bonds. The court found that the procedure through which Articles 14 and 16 were included in the SME access to credit law was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the inserted article 14 amending the Monetary and Financial Code and the inserted article 16 altering the Civil Code departed from the purpose of the law proposal meant to facilitate SME access to credit. The PS asserted [Al Arabiya report] that the inserted articles would have compromised secular law, while supporters of the law charged that it would allow France to tap into Islamic finance capital.

France is the Western European country with the largest Muslim community, and French secular values have led to conflicts over restricting Islamic practices in aspects of secular life, such as wearing religious attire in public schools and courts. In July, a commission [official website] created by the National Assembly began hearings to consider [JURIST report] whether to enact laws banning the wearing of burqas [JURIST news archive] or other "full veils." In December 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that there was no human rights violation when a French school expelled two students for refusing to remove their headscarves. In July 2008, a Muslim woman's citizenship application was denied [JURIST report] because she failed to assimilate to French culture and she practiced a type of Islam found incompatible with French values.

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