French Muslims torn over proposed veil ban


From the Associated Press.


<strong>PARIS — Muslims in the Arab world are incensed and Muslims in Franceare walking a delicate line after President Nicolas Sarkozy pushed for an all-out ban on full Islamic veils.</strong>

"Ridiculous" and "misplaced," said a Muslim vendor Thursday at an outdoor market in a working class, ethnically mixed Paris suburb. "Racist," said a Sunni Muslim cleric in Lebanon.

The rector of the Muslim Institute of the Paris Mosque, however, held off on harsh criticism, saying only that any ban should be properly explained, and noting that the Quran does not require women to cover their bodies and faces.

Sarkozy upped the stakes Wednesday in France's drive to abolish the full veil, ordering a draft law banning them in all public places — defying France's highest administrative body, which says such a ban risks being declared unconstitutional.

Such a measure would put France on the same track as Belgium, which is also moving toward a complete ban amid fears of radicalism and growing Islamic populations in Europe. Sarkozy says such clothing oppresses women and is "not welcome" in France. French officials have also cited a concealed face as a security risk.

France's top government official for family issues, Nadine Morano, said the conservative government wants to "break this dynamic of invasion of burqas in our country."

While France has western Europe's largest Muslim population, only a tiny minority of Muslim women in France wear the burqa, which has only a mesh screen for the eyes, or niqab, which leaves a slit for the eyes.

"France is addressing a very strong message. It is a message on an international level to women. How can we explain that while women are fighting in Afghanistan for their freedom, for their dignity, in France we accept what they are fighting against?" Morano said on France-Info radio Thursday...

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