*In a highly controversial move, the lower house of the French parliament has voted in favor of banning the burqa in public, the female Muslim veil which covers the entire face and body.
With broad cross-party support for banning the burqa, lawmakers at the French National Assembly voted in favor of the bill by an overwhelming 336 votes for and just one against the measure.
Speaking after the bill was passed, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the law is underpinned by humanitarian values, “which today, like yesterday, forge our unity, our individuality and which are the foundations of the greatness of France.”
The measure now goes to the Senate in September. If it is passed there, it will be signed into law, and it will become illegal in France to wear the full veil anywhere in public.
Anyone who breaks that law could be fined the equivalent of around $200. Men caught forcing their wives to wear the full veil would face a much larger $40,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
The government estimates that at most, 2,000 women in France wear the full veil. But the French Parliament passed a resolution describing the burqa as “contrary to the values of the French republic.”
Critics claim the government is unfairly targeting members of the Muslim faith who choose to wear the garment. They say it violates the French constitution, and have vowed to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A successful challenge there would force France to repeal the ban.