Newcomers to France should sign 'no-burqa' clause, says minister

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PARIS: Foreigners who come to live in France should sign a contract recognizing that the wearing of the full Islamic veil is banned, a minister said Sunday.

The no burqa clause and a second provision rejecting female genital mutilation should be added to the integration contract that newcomers have been asked to sign since 2007, said Families Minister Nadine Morano.

The government is drafting legislation to restrict the wearing of the face-covering veil after a parliament report last month called for a burqa ban in all schools, hospitals, government offices and public transport.

Morano said the newcomers contract currently states that forced marriages and polygamy are not allowed in France because equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of French society.

The minister told French radio that the clause – the same applies to the full veil – should be added to that provision.

I also want to add that female genital mutilation is strictly prohibited, she said.

Morano plans to propose the changes at a conference on Monday called by the government to take stock of its three-month debate on national identity that has exposed fears about immigration and Islam.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon last week said he would sign a decree refusing French citizenship to a man who forced his wife to wear the full Islamic veil.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared the burqa not welcome in secular France and is in favour of legislation to outlaw it, although he has also warned against stigmatizing Muslims.

Home to Europe s biggest Muslim minority estimated at between five and six million, France has been debating measures to outlaw the veil even though only about 1,900 women wear the burqa, according to the interior ministry.

Supporters of a ban argue that the veil is an affront to French values and that it is a sign of a type of creeping fundamentalism that must not be allowed to take hold among French Muslims.

In 2004, France passed a law banning headscarves and any other conspicuous religious symbols in state schools after a long-running debate on how far it was willing to go to accommodate Islam in its strictly secular society. -AFP

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