There has been a mixed reaction to the news that the French government is setting up a commission to look at ways of restricting the wearing of the burqa.France is home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at around five million, and human rights campaigners have welcomed news of a potential ban. “This is the symbol of fascism, the oppression of women. It is the Talibanisation of religion,” said Silhem Habchi from the women’s rights group “Ni Putes, Ni Soumises”. But on the streets of Paris, many want to know how the ban would be enforced: “The burqa has nothing to do with religion. It is cultural,” said one man. “Imagine someone coming here from abroad with a burqa. Are you going to say ‘no, you have no right to enter France’?” President Sarkozy says the burqa deprives women of their identity but Muslim representatives say the real effect of a ban could be increased intolerance. The French government has asked 32 lawmakers to spend six months looking at ways of restricting the use of the burqa. In 2004, France banned Islamic headscarves in state schools.
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