Earlier this week, France put its 2010 law banning the veil into effect, spurring angry demonstrations in both Paris and London. Two women were arrested, not because they were wearing burqas but because they participated in an illegal demonstration. Parisian police arrested 61 people this past weekend for holding an outlawed protest on this issue.
It is important to understand that the French ban is not specific to Islam. The French law is ethnicity — and religion-neutral and refers only to a generic “face-covering.” In 2004, France became the first European country to legally restrict all religious clothing in public schools: veils, visible Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps, and hijab (headscarves) were forbidden, not in public, but in public schools.
The French police will not forcibly remove any woman’s burqa nor will they arrest such women as long as they identify themselves. The police will fine them. Further, anyone who forces a woman to cover her face can be imprisoned for up to a year and fined about 30,000 euros (or about $43,000.00).
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