Anne, an assumed name, a 31-year old French woman who has been fined for wearing a niqab while driving, speaks to the media during a news conference with her husband Lies Hebbadj in Nantes, western France, April 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files

Veiled French woman Anne (an assumed name) fined for wearing a niqab while driving in Nantes meets journalists on 26 April 2010/Stephane Mahe

A French proposal to ban full face veils has stoked debate in Europe and also provoked strong reactions across the Mediterranean in North Africa, where many of France’s Muslims trace their origins.

Former French colonies Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are still tied to France by history, language and migration, so their views on the “burqa” issue could have a direct influence on how Muslims inside France react to a ban.

People in North Africa are split between those who see the proposed ban — a version of which has already been approved by Belgium’s lower house of parliament — as an attack on Islam, and those who applaud Europe for defending secular values.

What is shared though by at least some people on each side of the argument is a concern that talk of a ban could be exploited by unscrupulous politicians and ratchet up tension between the authorities in Europe and Muslim communities.