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The French Senate voted 246-1 Tuesday to make it illegal for women to wear garments that cover their entire faces. The measure, if greenlighted by a constitutional body, will affect only a few thousand people, but its implications for religious freedom and women's rights have attracted international interest.

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Anti-Muslim sentiment in Spain is getting enshrined into law, with legislation banning the burqa being passed in villages across northeast Spain, legitimizing xenophobic views in the Catalan region where most communities have few if any Muslim inhabitants.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that burqas worn by Muslim women are no longer welcome in France. The full-body veil, symbol of women's "enslavement," he said, is a threat to gender equality and to France's long-standing secular democracy. Only a minority of women among the roughly 6 million Muslims in France wear such attire, but Sarkoz's new hard line is sure to fan the debate.

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