US joins criticals of French veil ban

US officials have reiterated Washington's disagreement with a ban approved by the lower house of France's National Assembly on full slamic veil.

US joins criticals of French veil ban

 

US officials have reiterated Washington's disagreement with a ban approved by the lower house of France's National Assembly on use of face-covering Islamic veils in public.

"We do not think that you should legislate what people can wear or not wear associated with their religious beliefs," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

"Here in the United States, we would take a different step to balance security and to respect religious freedom and the symbols that go along with religious freedom," he said.

Under the bill, Muslim women could be fined for wearing full-length veils in public.

The bill is not yet law, as it will now go to France's Senate in Sepetmber.

The legislation, which still has to be vetted by the Constitutional Council, France's highest constitutional authority, and approved by the Senate in September, could make France the second European country to criminalise wearing the burqa or niqab.

France is home to Western Europe's largest Muslim minority, with about 5 million Muslims, but it is thought that only about 2,000 women wear the full-length veil.

Offenders would be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class.

In the vote, 335 members of parliament approved the ban, with just one against. Opposition socialist and Green lawmakers abstained, Reuters said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's determination to ban the hijab and the burka won enough political support to approve the measure, even though critics argue that it breaches French and European human rights legislation.

"I would only say that, as I understand it, this is a first step in what may be a lengthy legislative and perhaps legal process," said Crowley.

“Discrimination”

The Council of State, France's top legal advisory body, has already queried whether a ban is compatible with the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Council of Europe has also said it is opposed to bans on veils and that they deny women a basic right.

Opponents say such laws discriminate against Muslims and create a climate of suspicion and hostility towards immigrant communities. Amnesty International condemend the vote.

"A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs," said John Dalhuisen, expert on discrimination in Europe at Amnesty.

France had already banned the wearing of Muslim headscarves in schools and the civil service, although female university students may wear them.

Businessman Rachid Nekkaz, who tried to stand in the 2007 presidential election, said in a statement published in several newspapers that he would use proceeds from property sales for a 1 million euro fund to help women pay fines under the new law.
 

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Temmuz 2010, 14:34
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