France to begin enforcing veil ban Monday
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, April 10, 2011 9:14PM EDT
France -- home to Europe's largest Muslim population -- will begin enforcing its ban of face-covering Islamic veils on Monday.
On Saturday, police arrested 61 people, including 19 women, at an outlawed demonstration over the ban in Paris.
Police had banned the protest, saying a Muslim group's call for the rally was "clearly an incitement to violence and racial hatred."
"The demonstration was not banned because of the practice (among some Muslim women) of wearing veils, but because of the speech," Nicolas Lerner, chief of staff for the Paris police chief, told The Associated Press.
Police also said counter-protests were planned, leading to the possibility of a confrontation.
France has made several moves in the last decade to reduce public religious displays. A 2004 law banned Islamic headscarves in classrooms.
The new law forbids women from hiding their faces, which would include the slit-eyed niqab and the face-covering burqa, in any public place. Violators will face a $215 fine or have to take a citizenship course.
Anyone forcing a woman to wear a face-covering veil could serve a year in prison or have to pay a $43,000 fine.
There are about 2,000 women in France who wear the outlawed veils, according to officials.
There are five million Muslims in France, a country with a population of about 62 million.
In Canada, the province of Quebec introduced legislation in 2010 that stipulates veiled women have to uncover their face to receive any government service.