Apr 11, 2011

 
 

PARIS — France's new ban on Islamic face veils was met with a burst of defiance Monday, as several women appeared veiled in front of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral and two were detained for taking part in an unauthorized protest.

France on Monday became the world's first country to ban the veils anywhere in public, from outdoor marketplaces to the sidewalks and boutiques of the Champs-Elysees.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy set the wheels in motion for the ban nearly two years ago, saying the veils imprison women and contradict this secular nation's values of dignity and equality. The ban enjoyed wide public support when it was approved by parliament last year.

Though only a very small minority of France's at least 5 million Muslims wear the veil, many Muslims see the ban as a stigma against the country's No. 2 religion.

About a dozen people, including three women wearing niqab veils with just a slit for the eyes, staged a protest in front of Notre Dame on Monday, saying the ban is an affront to their freedom of expression and religion.

Much larger crowds of police, journalists and tourists filled the square.

One of the veiled women was seen taken away in a police van. A police officer on the site told The Associated Press that she was detained because the protest was not authorized and the woman refused to disperse when police asked her to. The officer was not authorized to be publicly named.

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