Moves to outlaw the full-face Islamic veil in France met a challenge today as the opposition Socialists formally came out against government plans to ban it. The announcement by the Socialists - whose members had previously expressed diverging views on the issue - came a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy left open the prospect of legislation to ban the veil, known as a burqa or niqab. The Socialist Party opposes the wearing of the burqa but "is not favourable" to a legal ban on it, which would amount to an inconsistent "ad hoc law", its spokesman Benoit Hamon said on radio station RTL.
"We are totally opposed to the burqa. The burqa is a prison for women and has no place in the French Republic," he said. "But an ad hoc law would not have the anticipated effect." He added: "It is not the state's job to judge what is the right interpretation of the scriptures ... We should not make a law when it is not clear how it would be enforced." Mr Sarkozy himself has said that the burqa is not welcome in France but has not waded into the debate on whether legislation should be enacted.
The parliamentary leader of his right-wing UMP party Jean-Francois Cope has said he will propose a bill this month to ban the wearing of the burqa in public to defend France from "extremists". On Tuesday Mr Sarkozy raised the prospect of a non-binding parliamentary resolution against it and said he was not opposed to legislation, members of his right-wing UMP party told AFP. * AFP