France Starts Face Veil Ban

France on Monday started implementing a law against the use of Islamic face veil in public, becoming the first country in the world to impose the ban seen by some as anti-Muslim.

Several women protested the start of the ban on Monday at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, where they appeared wearing the traditional veils. Two of the protesters were arrested for staging the unapproved protest, the Associated Press quoted a police officer as saying. The law imposes a $215 fine on any one caught wearing the veil, but jail time is not included as punishment.

France is home to about five million Muslims, although only a small percentage of them wear the niqab. Nonetheless, Muslims in the country are against the law as they interpret it as an affront to their freedom of expression and religion. Supporters of the law, including President Nicolas Sarkozy, however, believe that the wearing of the veil clashes with the nation’s drive to provide equality regardless of gender and preserve the dignity of women.