From The Telegraph U.K.
Nicolas Sarkozy pushes for burqa ban in France
President Nicolas Sarkozy has reiterated his belief that the burqa, the head-to-toe veil worn by some Muslim women, has no place in secular France.
Published: 11:00PM GMT 12 Nov 2009
“France is a country where there is no place for the burqa, where there is no place for the subservience of women,” he said in a speech on French national identity.
France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil.
The country has had a long-running debate on how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam without undermining the tradition of separating church and state, enshrined in a flagship 1905 law.
In 2004, it passed a law banning headscarves or any other “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools to defend secularism.
Mr Sarkozy in June said the burqa was not a symbol of religious faith but a sign of women’s “subservience” and declared that the full veil was “not welcome” in France.
He was speaking on Thursday in the Alpine town of La Chapelle en Vercors in his first intervention in a country-wide debate begun last month on what it means to be French.
Public meetings are due to take place in some 450 government offices around the country, involving campaigners, students, parents and teachers, unions, business leaders and French and European lawmakers.
The debate will end with a conference early next year on the twin questions of “what it means to be French today” and “what immigration contributes to our national identity.”
The Socialist opposition has accused the government of pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment to shore up support on the Right ahead of regional elections in March.
It has said the debate risks alienating France’s large immigrant communities.
But Mr Sarkozy on Thursday defended the “noble debate” and said: “Those who do not want this debate are afraid of it.”