Face veil protesters detained as French ban begins

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Face veil protesters detained as French ban begins

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France’s ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, has been marked by anger and arrests at one of the leading landmarks in Paris.

Several people were detained at what was meant to be a silent protest outside Notre Dame Cathedral, with feelings running high.

“It is an attack on my freedom of conscience, my freedom of religion, my freedom to be a woman,” said activist Kenza Drider, wearing a face veil.

“In the street, you are free to practice your religion as you see fit. It is fundamental to democracy,” added another fully-veiled woman, also taking part.

A policeman said protesters were held not for wearing forbidden clothes but for identity checks, as their demonstration was unauthorised.

Anyone wearing the Muslim burka or niqab in public is now liable to a fine of 150 euros or lessons in French citizenship. The hijab, which does not cover the face, is allowed under the new legislation.

On her way to demonstrate in Paris, Kenza Drider took the high-speed train from Avignon, with no obvious challenge by authorities.

Critics of Nicolas Sarkozy claim the law is aimed at boosting his poll ratings and support among far-right voters before next year’s presidential election.