French starts ban on Islamic face veil

After much controversy, France has implemented a law that makes it an offence for Muslim women to conceal their faces in public

France has become the first country in Europe to publicly ban the Islamic face veil, regarded as a religious duty by some Muslims. Under the law, which comes into play today, any woman covering her face with the religious dress in public could be fined.

People forcing women to wear the veil could face large fines and a prison sentence of up to two years as the French government insist face-covering veils undermine the basic standards required for living in a shared society and suggests inferior status.

‘The street is the universal home of freedom,’ says French Muslim property dealer, Rachid Nekkaz, who is creating a fund to pay women’s fines of 150 euros. ‘I am calling on all free women who so wish to wear the veil in the street and engage in civil disobedience.’

Opposition protests by Islamists and libertarians are unlikely to make much of an impression said a BBC correspondent. What is more open to question is whether an out-and-out legal ban is necessary when only about 2,000 women in France wear the niqab or burka.

In the southern city of Avignon, a woman remained unchallenged by police when boarding a train wearing a niqab. ‘It’s not an act of provocation,’ she says. ‘I’m only carrying out my citizen’s rights.’

Critics of French President Nicolas Sarkozy say it suits him to play up the Muslim question because he is an unpopular president in need of an easy vote winner.

Do you agree with the controversial law? What is your reaction to the ban? Or should everyone have the right to demonstrate their religion? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

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