French parliament debates burka ban

France’s hotly debated Bill to ban burka-style Islamic veils in public is going before Parliament today, with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government casting the measure as a way to promote equality between the sexes and protect oppressed women.

The Bill is widely expected to become law, despite the concerns of many French Muslims, who fear it will stigmatise them. Many legal experts also argue that it would violate the constitution.

While ordinary Muslim headscarves are common in France, face-covering veils are a rarity.

Yet the planned law would be a turning point for Islam in a country with a Muslim population of at least five million people, the largest in Western Europe.

France, however, is determined to protect the country’s deeply rooted secular values.

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