Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:53 pm (KSA) 16:53 pm (GMT)

Muslim burka "not welcome" in France: Sarkozy

President says burka undermines French secularism and women's rights
President says burka undermines French secularism and women's rights

The burka, or face covering some Muslim women wear, is "not welcome" in France because it is not a symbol of religion but a sign of subservience for women, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday.

"We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity," he said. "That is not the idea that the French republic has of women's dignity."

 The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience 
French president

"The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience," he told lawmakers. "It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic."

Sarkozy told a special session of parliament he was in favor of holding the inquiry sought by some French lawmakers into whether Muslim women who cover themselves fully in public undermine French secularism and women's rights.

But the president added "we must not fight the wrong battle, in the republic the Muslim religion must be respected as much as other religions" in France, which has Europe's biggest Muslim population estimated at several million.

The proposal to hold an inquiry has won support from many politicians from both the left and right, but France's official Muslim council accused lawmakers of wasting time focusing on a fringe phenomenon.

In 2008, the Netherlands banned the burka from universities, not only for students but also mothers and anyone else entering the grounds.

Education Minister Ronald Plasterk announced in parliament that the planned ban, initially intended to apply only to the compulsory schooling system, would now also extend to tertiary education institutions.

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