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France Begins Enforcing Full Face Veil Ban

VOA News April 11, 2011

France has begun enforcing a ban against Islamic veils covering the whole face.

Women found wearing full-face veils in public could face a fine of $200 and be ordered to take a citizenship course. Anyone forcing a woman to cover her face could be fined as much as $41,000 and spend a year in prison.

Police have been ordered not to force anyone to take off the veil in public.

The ban, which was approved by parliament in September, came into effect Monday.

Advocates argue the legislation is necessary if the country's estimated 5 million to 6 million Muslims - many of them immigrants - are to integrate.

Muslim women who object to the new law call the veil a statement of their Islamic faith. On Saturday, police arrested 61 people in Paris for holding an unauthorized protest against the ban.

The government estimates there are only about 2,000 women wearing the face veil in France.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said the measure is critical to ensure the respect of women's rights and the separation of church and state.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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