WASHINGTON — Days before French lawmakers are due to vote on a bill that would make it illegal for Muslim women to wear full veils in public, a US poll has found that a majority of Europeans back such a ban while Americans reject it.
The French overwhelmingly endorse a ban on Muslim face coverings, also known as the burqa or the niqab, as do majorities in Britain, Germany and Spain, a survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center?s Global Attitudes Project found.
More than eight in 10 people in France said they would approve of a ban on Muslim women wearing full veils in public, including in schools, hospitals and government offices, the survey, conducted over three weeks in April and May, found.
Just 17 percent of French people were opposed to a ban on the burqa.
Majorities in Germany (71 percent), Britain (62 percent) and Spain (59 percent) said they would support a burqa ban in their own countries.
But in the United States, the opposite was true, with two-thirds of Americans saying they were against a ban on full veils in public.
Opinions about banning Muslim women from wearing a full veil did not vary along gender lines in any of the five countries where the question was asked.
Pew asked 1,002 people in the United States, 750 each in Britain, France and Germany and 755 in Spain about how they felt about a burqa ban, as part of its Global Attitudes Survey.
France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, is due to vote on July 13 - the day before France's national holiday -- on whether to ban the burqa in public. The draft law will then go to the French Senate for its vote in September.
Under the bill, women could be fined 150 euros (190 dollars) if they are caught wearing a full veil in public places like streets, parks, public transport or shops.
Men who force their wives or daughters to wear the full veil would face stiffer penalties -- a fine of up to 30,000 euros and a year in jail.
A ban in France would affect a tiny minority of Muslim women, according to the French interior ministry, which estimates that about 1,900 women in France wear the full veil.
Similar laws are pending in Belgium and Spain, but the ban is particularly sensitive in France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority.
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