Burka in France 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
France's lower house of parliament passed a ban on Islamic burka-veils Tuesday, a move that is popular among French voters despite strong opposition from human rights advocates and Muslim groups.
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There were 336 votes for the bill and just one against at the National Assembly. Most members of the main opposition group, the Socialist Party, refused to participate in the vote.
Following Tuesday's vote, the ban on face-covering veils will go in September to the Senate, where it also is likely to pass. Its biggest hurdle will likely come after that, when France's constitutional watchdog scrutinizes it.
The main body representing French Muslims says face-covering veils are not required by Islam, and it worries that the law will stigmatize all Muslims.
France has Europe's largest Muslim population, estimated to be about 5 million of the country's 64 million people. While ordinary headscarves are common, only about 1,900 women in France are believed to wear face-covering veils. Champions of the bill say they oppress women.
With the proposed ban, the government also is seeking to insist that
integration is the only path for immigrant minorities. France has had
difficulty integrating generations of immigrants and their children, as
witnessed by weeks of rioting by youths, many of them minorities, in
troubled neighborhoods in 2005.
At the National Assembly, few dissenters have spoken out about civil
liberties or fears of fanning anti-Islam sentiment.
The niqab and burka are generally seen here as a gateway to extremism
and an attack on women's rights and secularism, a central value of