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French government advised against full burka ban

media Different veils as worn by Muslim women: a niqab (l) and burkas (r) AFP

France’s State Council has advised the government against introducing a complete ban on the full Islamic veil but suggested outlawing the burka in some places for security reasons. The French government wants to ban the burka in schools, hospitals, government offices and on public transport. 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is planning to present a bill to parliament in the coming weeks to restrict women from wearing full-face veils such as the burka.

But after months of negotiations, France’s top administrative body has now spoken out against a complete ban on Islamic veils. It warned that such a blanket ban was unlikely to stand up to a court challenge and that there were no legal grounds for it.

Such a ban could be seen as a violation of the French constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, the council said.

But it might be possible to ban the veil from specific places for public security reasons and to combat fraud, according to the State Council.

“It would be justified to require that faces be uncovered in some places or for some procedures”, the State Council said in its report to French Prime Minister François Fillon.

Fillon had asked the State Council for a legal opinion in January, before drafting the resolution that he said would ban the burka in as many places as possible.

Sarkozy has declared the burka “not welcome” in secular France and is in favour of legislation to outlaw it. However, he has also warned against a possible stigmatisation of Muslims. 

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