The French National Assembly has voted nearly unanimously to ban the burka in public, and the Senate is expected to do the same in a matter of weeks. France will likely become the second European nation after Belgium to crack down on the Islamic garb. Similar bills are also pending in Spain and Italy. The bill, which passed the Assembly 335 to 1, would fine women who wear face-covering veils $200, or require them to attend citizenship classes, or both. Husbands who insist the veils be worn in public could face up to a year in prison and a $38,000 fine.
The Socialists and Greens boycotted the vote. Socialist Parliament member Jean Glavany lashed the bill as "nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren't like us," reports the BBC. Legal experts have warned that such a ban might not withstand a constitutional court challenge. France is home to some 5 million Muslims, Europe's largest population. Almost 9 out of 10 French support a ban, according to a recent poll, compared with 6 out of 10 in Britain, reports the Telegraph.