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France's ban on Islamic veils met w/ defiance

April 11, 2011 12:02:31 AM PDT
Several women defied France's new ban on Islamic face veils. Two women were detained for taking part in an unauthorized protest in front of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.

France on Monday became the first country to ban the veils anywhere in public.

French leaders say the veils imprison women and go against the nation's secular values of dignity and equality, but Muslims see the ban as an affront to their freedom of religion and expression.

One of the veiled women was seen taken away in a police van. A police officer said the woman was detained because the protest was not authorized and the woman refused to leave when police asked her to.

The Paris police administration said another woman was also detained for taking part in the unauthorized demonstration.

It was unclear whether the women were also fined for wearing a veil. The law says veiled women risk a euro150 ($215) fine or special citizenship classes, though not jail.

People who force women to don a veil are subject to up to a year in prison and a euro30,000 fine ($43,000), and possibly twice that if the veiled person is a minor.

The ban enjoyed wide public support when it was approved by parliament last year.

The law is worded to trip safely through legal minefields: The words "women," "Muslim" and "veil" are not even mentioned. The law says it is illegal to hide the face in the public space.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.