“On this question, the government is taking, in all conscience, a path which is difficult but just,” President Nicolas Sarkozy told the ministers at the cabinet meeting.
“We are an old nation assembled around a certain idea of personal dignity, in particular the dignity of women, and around a certain idea of married life.”
A veil which covers the face contradicts values which are fundamental to the French republic, he said.
The bill follows the lines already revealed in the media, notably a 150-euro fine and/or training in citizenship for women who break the law.
The opposition Socialist Party is likely to take the bill to the country’s highest court, the Conseil d’Etat, which has already warned that its provisions may be open to legal challenge.
French Islamic leaders, while condemning the practice, point out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the veil and oppose the planned law on the grounds that it stigmatises their entire community.
Belgium became the first European country to ban the burka, when it passed it into law last month.