Sarkozy ban on Islamic veils 'legally very fragile'
PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered legislation that will ban women from wearing Islamic veils that hide the face in the street and other public places in France.
But Mr Sarkozy defied experts' advice sought by the government that warned such a broad ban risked contravening France's constitution.
Such a measure would put France on the same track as Belgium, which is also moving towards a complete ban.
Mr Sarkozy has repeatedly said such clothing oppresses women and is "not welcome" in France.
Government spokesman Luc Chatel said: "The ban on veils covering the whole face should be general, in every public space, because the dignity of women cannot be put in doubt."
The decision to seek a full ban, rather than a limited ban, came as a surprise. After a cabinet meeting just a week ago, the government spokesman announced a decision for legislation that bans the veil but takes into account conclusions on the matter by the Council of State, France's highest administrative office.
The government had sought the council's opinion to ensure a law would pass constitutional muster. But the Council of State advised that a full ban would be "legally very fragile".
A six-month parliamentary inquiry also concluded that a full ban would raise constitutional issues, as well as enforcement problems.
"It's a transgression, an aggression even, on the level of personal liberty," said Abdellatif Lemsibak, a member of the National Federation of Muslims of France.