In the fall of last year, France’s Senate overwhelmingly passed a law banning the wearing of the Islamic full veil in public. That law went into effect today, with two veiled women arrested soon after — not for wearing the garments but for participating in an unauthorized protest, reports CNN.
The ban, which focuses on the burqa and the niqab and does not “target the wearing of a headscarf, head gear, scarf or glasses, as long as the accessories do not prevent the person from being identified,” has been controversial, with French authorities saying it’s “in keeping with national values,” while Amnesty International says such a ruling violates European human rights law.
“The French community has, of course, been upset at this new development even if many may personally be against the burqa,” said Amer Sahar, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who studies Muslims in France. “They feel under attack one more time and resentful of the fact that they are not allowed to be both Muslim and French.”
Fewer than 2,000 women in France wear the full veil. The fine for doing so is 150 euros, or public service. Forcing a woman to wear the veil comes with harsher fines, with an even greater punishment for forcing a minor to do so. On Saturday, French police arrested some 60 people at a protest over the veil ban that had been called by a Muslim Group in Britain.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 11, 2011