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France conservative leader introduces bill to ban burqas in public

[JURIST] The leader of France's conservative party introduced legislation [press release, in French] Tuesday to the National Assembly [official website, in French] that would ban wearing of the burqa [JURIST news archive] in public and make it punishable by 750 euros. Jean-Francois Cope [official profile, in French], leader of the Union for Popular Movement (UMP) [party website, in French] in the National Assembly, is leading the movement in the legislature [Le Monde report, in French], spurred on by French President Nicholas Sarkozy's announcement in June that those who wore the burqa were not welcome in France. The bill also has the support of some French socialists [Le Monde report, in French] from the other side of the political spectrum, as well as that of French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. The official commission into the issue is expected to report by the end of January [Reuters report].

Cope has been pursuing legislation since December, in direct opposition to the National Assembly's November decision not to push for specific legislation [JURIST reports] 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. In July of that year, 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.

4:30 PM ET - French President Nicolas Sarkozy told lawmakers Wednesday that he favors a ban on the burqa but that he would await conclusions from the parliamentary commission.

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