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French intolerance

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is moving ahead with a misguided plan to ban Muslim women from wearing face-covering veils in public places.


Despite warnings that it might violate France's constitution, President Sarkozy intends to go even further than the original proposal and ban veils in public places belonging to the state and where facial recognition is necessary for security reasons.


His broader measure expected to go to Parliament next month would ban two different styles of veils from all public places.


French officials view the veil, which is worn by fewer than 2,000 women, as a symbol of oppression. It is not required, but devout Muslim women wear it voluntarily as a matter of religious observance. A government spokesman said the veils "threaten the dignity of women."


That conflicts with the prior advice from the French Council of State warning that a ban had to be passed on preserving public order and not as a matter of personal dignity.


The veil has become a symbol of a cultural clash between secular France, which is worried about the spread of radical Islam, and religious states, particularly Islamic nations.


"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?" Nadine Moron, France's top government official for family issues, said.


Muslims see it otherwise. Abdellatif Lemsibak, a member of the National Federation of Muslims of France, called the proposed ban "a transgression, an aggression even, on the level of personal liberty."


The ban is a move toward intolerance that infringes on religious liberty.

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