France first to enforce burqa ban

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

France yesterday became the first country in Europe to ban women from concealing their faces in public. Anyone wearing a face-concealing veil such as the Muslim niqāb or burqa in the country can, as of yesterday, be fined 150 and forced to attend citizenship classes.

People found to have forced others to wear a veil can be sentenced to prison for up to two years. While France contains the largest Muslim population in Europe, only an estimated 2,000 women in the country wear the niqāb or burqa.

The French government said the face-concealing veil does not match the French concept of equality and does not meet the standards of a shared, democratic society. Women found wearing a veil in public can now be taken to a police station and asked to remove the veil for identification, police have said.

On Saturday police detained 59 people who protested the veil ban in a forbidden demonstration in the capital, Paris, 19 of the protesters were veiled women. Other European countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, have also proposed similar bans, although they are yet to enforce them. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has called for terrorist attacks on France after claiming the country has gone to war against Islam.