April 11, 2011

French police cautious as burka ban takes effect

by Jan Harris

A ban on concealing the face in a public space came into effect in France this morning, but police in the country are being careful how they enforce the ban in case it provokes a violent reaction from extremists.

Police are also concerned that they could be accused of discrimination against Muslims if they try to enforce the law, particularly in some parts of the Paris suburbs where the situation between Muslims and the police is already tense.

Women who appear in a public place with their face covered could be fined £133, while men who force their wives or daughters to wear veils could be imprisoned for up to a year and fined £25,000.

The Synergie police union has told its members to make enforcing the so called ‘burka ban’ a “low priority”.

While one of the stated aims of introducing the ban in France was to defend women’s rights, for some women in the country, who cover their face out of personal choice, it will undoubtedly have the opposite effect.

Belgium introduced a ban on wearing burkas last year and Holland, Spain and Switzerland are expected to follow.

In the UK, Home Secretary Theresa May has ruled out the introduction of a similar law.

The Home Office said yesterday: “It is not for government to say what people can and cannot wear. Such a proscriptive approach would be out of keeping with our nation’s longstanding record of tolerance. Accordingly we do not support a ban on wearing the burka.”

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