French authorities have denied citizenship to a man who forced his French wife to wear a face-covering veil, saying he had rejected national values of secularism and gender equality.
The government has been speaking out strongly against head-to-toe veils, and is moving toward banning them in public after a long public debate over French national identity in the age of globalization.
Critics call the face-covering veil a gateway to extremism, but the move to ban it has drawn fierce criticism from some of France's five million Muslims, who say such restrictions are based in fear and intolerance of Islam.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the veils degrading to women and unwelcome in France. Sarkozy, a law-and-order conservative whose relations with the Muslim community have often been fraught, has been a vocal proponent of an all-out ban on the burqa, niqab and other face-covering Muslim veils, The Associated Press reports.
"It’s French law," Prime Minister Fillon said. "The civil code has for a very long time provided that naturalisation could be refused to someone who does not respect the values of the republic."
Although Mr Fillon is obliged to consult with the council of state before endorsing the decree, he said it was his intention to sign it, arguing – as President Nicolas Sarkozy has done – that the full veil "has no place in our country.
The announcement came just a week after a parliamentary commission called for a law to ban the wearing of face-covering veils such as the burka and niqab in government offices and public transport, Irish Times reports.
French Immigration Minister Eric Besson said: "He expressly said that he refused the principle of secularism, that he rejects equality between men and women – he announced very clearly that males and females are not equal – and he admitted that he’s the one who forces his wife to wear the burqa."
The government’s announcement comes just days after a parliamentary commission called for a new law on the burqa.
Sparking widespread debate, the commission proposed a ban on the veil in public places such as schools, hospitals and government offices, euronews informs.