French burka ban comes into force
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.
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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