French ministers have voted overwhelmingly to ban the wearing of face-covering veils in public spaces, as Europe toughens its approach to integrating Muslim immigrant communities.Click through for the whole thing, including a video segment which I haven't watched.
...the 577-seat National Assembly lower house voted by 335 votes to one for a total ban.
The bill will now go to the Senate in September, but opponents of the total ban say if it was overturned by the judges of the Constitutional Council, France's highest legal body, it would hand a victory to the fundamentalists.
For while President Nicolas Sarkozy's determination to ban the niqab and the burqa won enough political support to carry it, the critics argue that it breaches French and European human rights legislation.
The bill defines public space very broadly, including not just government buildings and public transport, but all streets, markets and thoroughfares, private businesses and entertainment venues.
...Last week, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told lawmakers debating the bill that its adoption would assert French values and help to better integrate Muslim communities into the national way of life.
She said being forced to wear the niqab or the burqa "amounts to being cut off from society and rejecting the very spirit of the French republic that is founded on a desire to live together."
"At a time where our societies are becoming more global and complex, the French people are pondering the future of their nation. Our responsibility is to show vigilance and reaffirm our commonly-shared values," she said.
Critics say the law exploits a non-problem -- only about 1,900 women among France's five to six million Muslims wear a veil -- in a bid to pander to anti-immigration voters and to distract attention from France's economic woes...
Personally I don't see how controlling the way women dress, even if it is apparently intended to liberate them, is a Good Thing. And I saw a comment somewhere (I think on Boganette's twitter feed but not from her?) pointing out that stopping women from covering their faces in public is going to further restrict those affected, by requiring them to stay out of public spaces. Which will in turn severely undermine their ability to participate in society. To give just one example, how will they get to a polling booth to vote?