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France burqa ban proposal likely limited to public buildings: reports

[JURIST] The French parliament [official website, in French] will likely limit a proposal to ban the burqa [JURIST news archive] and niqab, full face veils worn by some devout Muslim women, to public buildings only, according to Monday reports. A parliamentary panel charged with examining the issue is set to report its recommendations [Daily Mail report] on Tuesday, and they are unlikely to press for a complete ban. The potential French "burqa ban" [BBC report] has received widespread support from the government, including from President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French]. Any legislation will probably not be voted on until after the French regional elections in March. There is still ongoing debate as to what the proposal should include and whether the ban would violate the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF].

The parliamentary panel [JURIST report] was created by the National Assembly in July. The panel has heard testimony from anthropologist Dounia Bouzar [video, in French; TIME profile], who suggested that a broad ban on covering one's face to conceal identity is preferable to a law that singles out Muslims. Bouzar said that the recent popularity of the burqa amongst French Muslims was due to religious "gurus" who have misconstrued the teachings of Islam. The commission also heard from University of Nice [academic website, in French] philosopher Abdennour Bidar [video, in French], who urged the commission to find a way to prevent the spread of the practice, though he was unsure whether this goal is best accomplished through legislation. The issue of imposing a full veil ban came to the forefront after a niqab-wearing woman's citizenship application was denied [JURIST report] in 2008 for failing to assimilate to French culture.

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