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France conservative leader to introduce bill to ban burqas in public

[JURIST] The leader of France's conservative party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) [party website, in French] announced Wednesday that he will introduce legislation banning the burqa [JURIST news archive] in public. Jean-Francois Cope's announcement [Le Figaro report, in French] comes at the end of a six-month investigation by a special commission into the causes, effects, and ramifications of Muslim women wearing the burqa in France. Also Wednesday, French Immigration Minister Eric Besson [official profile, in French] announced that he would seek to deny French citizenship [NYT report] to any woman choosing to wear the burqa in public, saying that it showed a lack of commitment to integrate in France. Besson has also called for a public debate on the definition of French culture, to be wrapped up in January.

Cope's announcement is in direct opposition to the National Assembly's November decision not to push for specific legislation [JURIST report] banning the burqa. The commission began its hearings in July after being established [JURIST report] a month earlier to address the issue. The controversy between the Muslim community and the secular French government has gone on for several years. 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 Muslim 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 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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