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France commission not pushing for burqa ban

[JURIST] French National Assembly representative Andre Gerin [official websites, in French] said Friday that the country will formally oppose the wearing of burqas [JURIST news archive], but is unlikely to pursue legislation [press release, in French] to ban the garment. Gerin is the head of a special commission [materials, in French] created by the French government to evaluate a ban on wearing burqas and other full-face veils in public. He said that even though he strongly opposes burqas, experts that testified before the panel had argued that a ban on the burqa would be hard to enforce and would antagonize Muslims in the country. He also said that while the wearing of burqas poses security and rights concerns, a law banning them would also threaten certain rights. Gerin's remarks came one day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; JURIST news archive] reiterated his opposition [AP report] to the use of burqas. It is not clear what steps, short of a ban, the government will take to discourage use of the veils.

The commission began its hearings in July after being established [JURIST report] a month earlier to address the issue. 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. Last July, 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. In 2004, France passed a law [JURIST report] banning students from conspicuous religious items, including Muslim headscarves, in schools.

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