Excerpt:

Her voice trembling with emotion, the leader of an advocacy group for Muslim women and girls urged a French parliamentary panel on Wednesday to press for laws that would ban the wearing of Islamic body- and face-covering veils.

Sihem Habchi appeared as the first witness before a newly created parliamentary group studying Islamic clothing such as burqas and niqabs - part of France's effort to integrate its growing Muslim population while preserving its heritage and secular roots.

The panel, chaired by a Communist Party lawmaker, will hold months of hearings before issuing a report, likely by January. It has no power to draft laws but could recommend legislation restricting or banning women from wearing head-to-toe Islamic robes that mask facial features in public.


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