Nabiha Bari Liberty, equality and fraternity is the national motto adopted by Fra-nce. The staunchly secular republic passed a new law by 355 votes to one under which women who wear face-covering veils in public place will have to pay a fine of 150 euros or will be ordered to follow citizenship classes, or both. By doing so, France has become the second country, after Belgium, to take such a step. The new law also leaves an impact on husbands and fathers, who force their wives and daughters to wear such veils, will now have to face imprisonment and a 30,000 euro fine, with both penalties being doubled if the affected person is a minor. Before proceeding further, it is imperative to give an overview of the constitutional and historical aspect of this law. The constitution of France states that France is Laique, (a secular republic). The constitution separates the Church and the state which, in effect, means that the government funded institutions like schools must not endorse or promote religious dogma. Although the majority of the population professes Catholicism, there are no communal prayers, religious assembles or crucifixes on walls. France has always been a multicultural society. Historically, there has been a division in the French society where religion is concerned, which has resulted in wars such as the 'Wars of Religion in the 16th century. The French Revolution paved the way for a secular republic when the monarchy was overthrown and the power of the church curtailed. In a bid to curb the influence of religion in the French national life, in 1989 the then French Education Minister, Francois Bayrou, banned the wearing of ostentatious religious insignia in French schools. France has a growing immigrant and minority population; of which Muslims make up eight percent. According to the Congressional Research Service Report on Foreign Policy and Regional Affairs (CRS) of the US, the European Muslim population is an ethnically and linguistically diverse population having emigrated from different Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries. This report also states that the July 2005 London bombings, carried out by young Muslims born and brought up in Europe alongside the wide-scale riots and violence that broke out in late October 2005 throughout France, in reaction to the deaths of two young Muslims, highlights the fact that European Muslims feel a sense of alienation and discrimination. Laws like one instituted by France in 2004, that banned the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in schools, when enforced, could aggravate the situation and act as a catalyst to divide the society on the basis of religion. This can provoke the fundamentalists or extremists to further exploit vulnerable young minds and brainwash them into becoming hardliners. As a result of these bans, many Muslims women wearing veils were denied their fundamental rights. Legally speaking, such bans are in violation of Article 1 of the French Constitution 1958, which ensures the equality and respect of all the citizens before the law with no distinction as to origin, race, or religion. Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right protected by a number of international treaties and declarations. In this respect, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948, states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion which includes the freedom to change ones religion or belief and also the freedom to practise religion in public or in private. Similarly, Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) promotes the right of freedom of thought on all matters and the freedom to manifest ones religious belief. Article 20 of the same prohibits any advocacy that incites religious discrimination. France, being a member state of the European Union is bound by its law. Article 9 of the EU Law, 1953, states that an individual has a right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Similarly, the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) also promotes the freedom of religion and conscience as enunciated in Article 9. It should be noted here that there can be derogation from this Article if public security is compromised. However, since face veils have not caused any unrest or security threat in particular, freedom to practice ones religion should not be prohibited. In 1981, a UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief was concluded. Its Article 3, in particular, states that discrimination on the basis of religion is against human dignity and is a clear violation of the principles of the UN Charter. The State Council, which is the highest administrative authority of France, has also stressed that there has been no specific incident of face veiling causing a threat to public security. Secondly, it has been suggested that in procedural matters such as identification in banks, jewellery shops, examination halls, departure lounges of the airports, picture for the identity cards, the wearing of veils can be prohibited. Otherwise, such a ban could stir extremists who only need trivial reasons to carry out terrorist activities. Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE), which is the US monitoring service, reported that Al-Qaeda has threatened to take action against France if such a ban is enforced. The French government must, therefore, bear in mind the dire repercussions of such a ban and should focus on the other issues faced by Muslims in order to prove that they, in fact, are a secular state. The writer is associated with the Research Society of International law (RSIL) Pakistan. Email: