France issues first fine for woman in Islamic veil

A woman in a veil outside a French police station Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Women can be taken to a police station if they refuse to remove their veils

French police say they have issued their first penalty to a woman for covering her face with an Islamic veil.

The woman was stopped in a shopping centre in Paris on Monday evening - the same day that a law banning face coverings in public came into force.

Police said they gave the 27-year-old woman a ticket that requires her to pay a 150-euro (£133) fine or register for citizenship classes within a month.

France is the first country in Europe to publicly ban the Muslim face veil.

Under the law, any woman - French or foreign - walking on the street or in a park in France and wearing a face-concealing veil such as the niqab or burka can be stopped by police and given a fine.

People forcing women to wear the veil face a much larger fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.

Two veiled women were briefly detained earlier on Monday - though police said it was not because of their veils but for joining an unauthorised protest and refusing to move on, and they were later released.

Guidelines issued to police say they should not ask women to remove their veils in the street - if necessary they should escort them to a police station where they would be asked to uncover their faces for identification.

The French government says the face-covering veil undermines the basic standards required for living in a shared society and also relegates its wearers to an inferior status incompatible with French notions of equality.

The ban on face coverings - which does not explicitly mention Islamic veils, but exempts various other forms - has angered some Muslims and libertarians.

Muslim headscarves

The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in myriad styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.
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