France Launching Veil Ban
Women who refuse to remove face coverings will be fined
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2011 3:21 AM CST
A Frenchwoman wears a niqab in a shop in Avignon. The veil will be banned from streets, shops, and public transport, among other places.   (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

(Newser) – France's veil ban is taking effect next month, making it illegal for women to wear the full-face Islamic veil in any public area, including the street. Offenders can be ordered to the nearest police station to remove the veil or pay a $200 fine. Veil-wearers can also be ordered to take citizenship classes. Lawmakers, faced with accusations that the law singles out Muslim women rather than the husbands or fathers who may be ordering them to wear a veil, have called the law "the bill against covering one's face," although exceptions have been made for motorcycle helmet wearers, fencers, and many others.

The ban comes amid a sustained effort from President Nicolas Sarkozy to win the support of far-right voters ahead of next year's election, notes the Guardian. He gave a speech yesterday hailing the "Christian heritage of France," and saying he wants no halal food in school cafeterias and no minarets. As anti-Islam sentiment grows in France, local authorities are taking steps to ban "pork and wine parties" that far-right groups plan to hold near mosques.