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French Parliament Completes Passage of Law Banning Veils

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The French Senate approved a law banning full-facial veils, completing parliamentary passage of a measure that courts have warned may be unconstitutional.

The Senate voted 246 in favor to one against. The lower National Assembly approved the law before recess in July.

The Conseil d’Etat, France’s top administrative court, has issued two advisory opinions saying that the European Court of Human Rights might rule that such a ban in all public places contradicts rights of personal freedom.

The law calls for a 150 euro ($195) fine for wearing a full facial veil, though fines won’t be imposed for the first six months while the government pushes an education campaign to convince women to expose their faces in public.

Forcing a woman to wear a full veil will be immediately punishable by up to one year in jail.

The government has repeatedly said the law isn’t aimed at France’s Muslims, who number between 3 million and 6 million, the largest community in Europe.

About 1,900 Muslim women in the country wear full facial veils, called “burqas” by the French even though the ones worn in France are technically “niqabs,” according to the Interior Ministry. Most of them are under the age of 30, about three-quarters are French citizens and half live in the Paris area.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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