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Why France is banning the veil

Sarkozy's legislation is only the latest move in a centuries-old grapple between the French state and organised religion

By Ruth Harris   July 2010

Picture by FotoRita via flickr

France’s national assembly has voted by 366 to one in favour of a ban on face coverings in public places. The move was widely anticipated, as the government has made no secret of the fact that it is designed to target the Islamic veil. President Sarkozy has described the veil as a “sign of enslavement and debasement” and claims it is the ultimate symbol of Islam’s oppression of women.

Opponents argue the move could contravene the French constitution and might be challenged by the European court of human rights. Recent changes in French…

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