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Women Wearing Burqa In France Will Be Fined 700 Pounds

PTI 08 Jan 2010, 10:03:02 AM IST

Women who wear the burqa in public will be fined £700 under laws being considered in France.

MPs will vote on the proposal this month after a long impassioned debate over the merits of outlawing the burka and niqab.

Jean-François Cope, parliamentary leader of President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP group, said the 750 euro fine would apply to anyone whose face is "fully covered in public".

Wearing either would be tolerated only in exceptional circumstances, such as "cultural events or carnivals," he added.

The bill proposes introducing an even heavier penalty for anyone who forces a woman to wear the full veil, Cope said in an interview with the Le Figaro magazine.

The burqa is a full-body covering with a mesh screen over the eyes while the naqaab is a full-body veil with eye slits.

Cope insists the law is based on public safety and sexual equality considerations and does not restrict religious practices.

"We spoke to religious and secular figures who all confirmed [the burqa] was not a religious prescription. Wearing the full body veil is about extremists who want to test the republic," he said.

President Sarkozy last year declared the burqa a "sign of subservience and debasement that imprison women" and said it was "not welcome on French soil".

But he is said to be undecided as to whether to back the law or a non-binding "resolution" that would make wearing the garments contrary to French values but not a punishable offence.

Cope has left both options on the table by drawing up a resolution regarding women's rights and a law on security in tandem.

The burqa discussion has intensified amid a heated debate on French identity organised by Sarkozy's immigration minister, Eric Besson. The debate has focused heavily on immigration and Islam in a country with five million Muslims.

Fadela Amara, the urban affairs minister, a women's rights activist and a Muslim, recently labelled the burqa a "walking coffin".