Veils banned and the Eiffel Tower is evacuated over bomb threat

The French Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill banning the burqa-style Islamic veil in public, but the leaders of both parliamentary houses said they had asked a special council to first ensure the measure passes constitutional muster amid concerns its tramples on religious freedoms.

The Senate voted 246 to 1 Tuesday in favor of the bill, which has already passed in the lower chamber, the National Assembly. It will need President Nicolas Sarkozy's signature.

"This law was the object of long and complex debate, "the Senate president, Gerard Larcher, and National Assembly head Bernard Accoyer said in a joint statement explaining their move. They said in a joint statement that they want to be certain there is "no uncertainty" about it conforming to the constitution.

Many Muslims believe the latest legislation is one more blow to France's second religion, and risks raising the level of Islamophobia in a country where mosques, like synagogues, are sporadic targets of hate. Some women have vowed to wear a full-face veil despite the law.

The measure would outlaw face-covering veils in streets, including those worn by tourists from the Middle East and elsewhere. It is aimed at ensuring gender equality, women's dignity and security, as well as upholding France's secular values — and its way of life.

But in a possibly non-related news item...

The Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated Tuesday evening over a reported bomb threat, according to a journalist with the French AFP news agency.

About 25,000 people were in the area at the time of the alert, AFP reported.

The Champ de Mars, the park surrounding the landmark, was also reportedly evacuated.

The 1,063-foot tower, built in 1889, is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.

The Eiffel Tower was last evacuated on Oct 10., 2005, due to a bomb threat, NBC News reports. Before that, the landmark was last evacuated on July 22, 2003, due to a fire.

Wake up!


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