France Imposes Stiff Penalties for Islamic Veils

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A new law banning the Islamic face veil in public took effect in France on Monday. Muslim women wearing a nijab or burqa in public will face a $215 fine and a police record.

The nijab leaves a tiny slit for the eyes while the burqa includes a mesh covering over the eyes.

People who force women to wear the veil will face a much stiffer fine and a possible one-year jail sentence. If the woman being forced to wear the veil is a minor, the penalties could double.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy began speaking out against the practice nearly two years ago, saying it violates the principles of dignity and equality cherished by French society.

Police arrested two veiled Muslim women taking part in a protest in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral Monday morning, The Associated Press reported. The women were charged with participating in an unauthorized demonstration.

An estimated 2,000 women in France wear the banned veil, where the Muslim population is the largest of any European country - more than 5 million.

In 2004, France passed a law banning Islamic head scarves in classrooms.

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