Burqa Ban in France Goes Into Effect
A burqa ban in France goes into effect today.
It means that anyone wearing the Muslim niqab, or burqa, in public could be given a fine of 150 euros or be given lessons in French citizenship.
France is home to Europes biggest Muslim population. Parliament passed the ban last year in October, making it the first country to do so.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon last month defended the ban.
"The French Republic lives in a bare-headed fashion," he said in an official government newspaper explaining the law.
French officials estimate that only about 2000 women in the country wear the full-face veils. A burqa is a loose, usually black or light blue robe that is worn by Muslim women, and that covers the body from head to toe. It is traditionally worn in parts of Arabia and South Asia.
The ban sparked controversy in France and across Europe, with opponents calling it an infringement on religious freedom. Supporters say the garment is symbolic of a fundamentalist brand of Islam.
Belgiums parliament has approved a similar law, but has yet to enforce it. In the Netherlands far-right leaders have proposed a ban, and in Italy the right-wing Northern League is lobbying for a ban on the French model.