France’s Constitutional Watchdog Endorses Veil Ban

News Agencies – October 7, 2010
France’s constitutional watchdog has endorsed a divisive law forbidding face-covering Islamic veils anywhere in public, but expressed concern about applying it in places of worship such as a mosque. The decision of the Constitutional Council removes a key hurdle for the law, overwhelmingly approved in both houses of parliament last month, despite concerns from some Muslims that it will further stigmatize France’s Muslim community.
The law, the first of its kind in western Europe, forbids veils such as the niqab or burka anywhere in public and imposes a €150-fine ($210) on anyone wearing one – and a €30,000 ($41,700) fine on anyone who forces a woman to wear one. Only some 2,000 women in France are estimated to wear such veils, but proponents see the law as a symbolic defense of French values, such as women’s rights and secularism. After reviewing the law, the council said in its ruling that “the law forbidding concealing the face in public conforms to the Constitution.”
The bill was born after President Nicolas Sarkozy said last year that the burka is “not welcome” in France. However, it is worded carefully, and the words “women,” “Muslim” and “veil” are not even mentioned in any of its seven articles. Opponents have said they could take the law to the European Court of Human Rights.