France: Cabinet approves veil ban bill
The French cabinet has approved a draft law to ban the wearing of full-face veils in public spaces, opening the way for the text to go before parliament in July.
The bill calls for $185 fines and, in some cases, citizenship classes for women do not comply with the ban.
Addressing the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, said: "Citizenship should be experienced with an uncovered face.
"There can be no other solution but a ban in all public places."
The bill includes a new offence - inciting to hide the face - with anyone convicted of forcing a woman to wear such a veil risking a year in prison and a $18,555 fine.
Sarkozy asks Muslims not to feel hurt by veil ban
President Nicolas Sarkozy urged French Muslims Wednesday not to feel hurt or stigmatised by a planned ban on full face veils that will fine women who hide their faces and jail men if they force them to cover up.
"This is a decision one doesn't take lightly," he said. "Nobody should feel hurt or stigmatised. I'm thinking in particular of our Muslim compatriots, who have their place in the republic and should feel respected."
Sarkozy said France was "an old nation united around a certain idea of personal dignity, particularly women's dignity, and of life together. It's the fruit of centuries of efforts."
Muslim women protest
"If the law is voted, I won't take off my veil. ... No one will dictate my way of life" but God, said Najat, a divorcee, who gave her age as "45 plus." She was one of a half-dozen women who, in a rare move, met with reporters on Tuesday to express their worries about changes they say will impact their lives to the core.
Like others, she refused to give her full name. All said they fear for their safety in an increasingly tense climate. Najat was among those who said she has been increasingly harassed since debate over the planned law began nearly a year ago.
The final draft text says France's founding tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity, values that guarantee the "social pact," are at stake.
The women beg to differ, claiming that France is betraying itself.
"Liberty. Liberty. I'm in France, in the land of liberty, equality, fraternity. I had the impression I was living it," said Oum Al Khyr, of Montreuil, on the edge of eastern Paris.
The bespectacled Najat, with a French mother and Moroccan father, said she has covered her face with a veil for 10 years. Najat said that because she is divorced and raising her children alone no one "can say this is imposed on me."
"I won't leave" France if the veil is outlawed. "Why should I leave?" Najat said, waving her French passport.
The women predicted that their "sisters," other women who veil themselves, would hide out in their homes so as not to get caught breaking the law. Several said they would take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if arrested.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com