Full-veil ban likely coming to France in May 2010

The French government will seek to ban Muslim women from wearing full-face veils in public despite warnings from experts that such a law could be unconstitutional. A spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government said a bill would be presented to ministers in May and would seek to ban the niqab and the burqa from streets, shops and markets, and not just from public buildings.

“We’re legislating for the future. Wearing a full veil is a sign of a community closing in on itself and of a rejection of our values,” Luc Chatel told reporters, on leaving a Cabinet meeting chaired by Mr. Sarkozy. Prime Minister Francois Fillon insisted the government would go ahead anyway, taking the risk that the eventual text would be struck down by the constitutional court, because of the importance of the issue.

There is strong support in parliament for such a ban and the government is determined to press on with a law, which it says would affect about 2,000 Muslim French women who cover their faces. According to Mr. Chatel, Mr. Sarkozy told his Cabinet the veil was an “assault on women’s dignity.”

Notable popularity of Muslim French Human Rights Minister Ramatoulaye Yade

With a compelling character, political talent and outspoken criticism of President Nicolas Sarkozy, Human Rights Minister Ramatoulaye Yade is emerging as France’s most popular political figure. She had never run for political office until chosen by Sarkozy as a spokesperson for his presidential campaign. Yade was appointed as France’s first-ever minister for human rights in May 2007. Her father is a Senegalese diplomat and politician. Despite her Muslim faith, she was educated at a Catholic school. Some warn that like Rachida Dati, the other high-profile “minority” minister, her popularity may wane quickly.