A bill banning the wearing of a full Islamic veil in public in France has been passed by the lower house of parliament.
It was adopted by a majority of 335-1. Most Socialists, Communists and Greens abstained.
French Justice Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, described the adoption of the bill as a double success.
“Firstly it’s a success for democracy but it is also a success for the Republic and for the values it represents. Values of freedom against all oppression that seeks to humiliate individuals,” she said.
The bill it still a long way from becoming law. It has to go before the Senate in September and then the Constitutional Court.
Some legal experts believe banning the burqa or niqab could breach the French constitution and Muslim groups say they will take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.
Those backing the bill say the full veil oppresses the estimated 1,900 women in France wearing it and believe most are forced to do so by their menfolk.
But opponents – including human rights organisations such as Amnesty International – fear it will stigmatise Muslims in general and argue it is an attack on the right to religious freedom.