From France24:

Sarkozy’s UMP party has announced plans to introduce a bill to ban full Islamic veils in all public areas in France. Talk of a ban has stirred a heated debate in France and could present the government with legal difficulties.

France’s ruling UMP party plans to present a bill to parliament in January on banning full Islamic veils in all public places and not just in certain buildings, a senior party official said on Tuesday.

The bill would be accompanied by a resolution related to respect for women, Jean-Francois Cope, the parliamentary party leader of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP, told a news conference.

Both propositions would be handed to parliament during the first two weeks of January, before the conclusions of a French parliamentary inquiry into the all-covering niqab and burqa are published.

France has been moving towards outlawing full Islamic veils in certain public buildings and had appeared to stop short of a broader ban that could violate religious freedom and deepen a rift in the government.

Most politicians are waiting for the results of the parliamentary inquiry before deciding on the need for a law.

A complete ban could meet with legal obstacles. Switzerland’s ban on minarets, for example, has been challenged before the European Court of Human Rights.

The French government is already facing internal dissent over a campaign to discuss national identity that has attracted accusations of racism, and a burqa law could be a difficult sell.