France

French burka ban comes into force

Reuters/Farid Alouache
2 min

Police in Paris have arrested two veiled women on Monday the day a ban on the full-face veil came into force. The arrests in front of Notre Dame cathedral comes after police moved in to break-up an unauthorised protest against the ban. The draconian new law is the first of it kind to be enforced in Europe. 

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Anyone refusing to lift the veil to submit to an identity check can be taken to a police station where they will be asked again to remove the garment. Refusal to comply risks a fine. Anyone who repeatedly insists on appearing veiled in public can be fined up to 150 euros and ordered to attend re-education classes.

On Saturday, police arrested 59 people including 19 veiled women who turned up for a banned protest in Paris, while two more were detained as they travelled to the rally from Britain and Belgium.

French officials estimate there are around 2,000 women,  from a total Muslim population estimated at between and four and six milliion,  who wear full-face veils. But many Muslims and human rights watchdogs have accused the rightwing president Nicolas Sarkozy of targetting one of the country's most vulvnerable groups to win back votes from a resurgent far right.

Belgium's parliament has approved a similar law, but has yet to enforce it. In the Netherlands far-right leaders have proposed a ban and in Italy the right-wing Northern League is lobbying for a ban on the French model.

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