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Burka is like a prison: French-Muslim minister

Compares both burqa and veil to a "straightjacket"

Women who wear burkas live in a prison, a French minister said in an interview Wednesday, after a Moroccan woman who wears the head-to-toe Islamic veil was denied French citizenship.

"The burka is a prison, it's a straightjacket," urban affairs minister Fadela Amara, herself a practicing Muslim who was born in France to Algerian parents, said in an interview to Le Parisien newspaper.

"It is not a religious insignia but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that advocates inequality between the sexes and which is totally devoid of democracy."

France's top administrative court, the state council, on June 27 rejected the citizenship request on the grounds that the woman's Muslim practices were incompatible with French laws on secularism and gender equality.

Amara said the ruling might "dissuade certain fanatics from imposing the burka on their wives."

Amara, a prominent women's rights campaigner who joined President Nicolas Sarkozy's government last year, said she made no distinction between the veil and the burka.

"It's just a question of centimeters of fabric," she said, describing both as symbols of oppression for women.

Total submission to men

The Moroccan woman, identified only as 32-year-old Faiza M., turned up for interviews with French authorities to discuss her application accompanied by her husband and wearing the long veil "with only her eyes visible through an opening", according to government officials quoted by the newspaper.

Faiza M., who has been living in France since 2000 and has three children, admitted to leading a reclusive life in a Paris suburb "living in a state of total submission to the men in her family," according to the newspaper.

The decision to deny citizenship to Faiza M. has been applauded by left- and right-wing politicians in France, which is home to Europe's largest Muslim community of five million.

A court in the northern city of Lille in April granted a Muslim man's request to annul his marriage to a woman because she had lied about being a virgin, sparking an uproar in France.

The state is appealing that decision.

In 2000, France passed a law forbidding girls from wearing veils and other religious symbols in state schools as part of the government's drive to defend secularism.