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Sarkozy: Burkas unwelcome in France

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Sarkozy: Burkas unwelcome in France
French President Nicolas Sarkozy smiles at the crowd at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer during a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in the Normandy region of France on June 6, 2009. (UPI Photo/ David Silpa) | License Photo

PARIS, June 23 (UPI) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the wearing of burqas, the traditional Muslim garment covering women from head to toe, was not "welcome in France."

In a speech before a joint session of parliament Monday, Sarkozy said the burqa was a "sign of subservience" and a matter of "a woman's freedom and dignity," CNN reported Tuesday.

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"The problem of the burqa is not a religious problem. This is an issue of a woman's freedom and dignity," Sarkozy said. "This is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of subservience; it is a sign of lowering. I want to say solemnly, the burqa is not welcome in France."

France has been engaged in a heated debate about Muslim women wearing the traditional covering, with some French lawmakers calling for a ban on them, CNN said.

Muslim leaders reacted with caution to Sarkozy's comments on wearing a burqa and niqab, a face veil, the Times of London reported.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, said Sarkozy's remarks were "in keeping with the republican spirit of secularism."

Moderate Muslims also consider full face-covering as a symbol of submission, Boubakeur told the Times.

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