A WOMAN was arrested at Avignon station this morning as she tried to board a train for Paris wearing the niqab [full veil] on the first day of the controversial new law on wearing the burqa and niqab.
It comes after a weekend where around 60 people were arrested in the run-up to a planned demonstration against the law in the Place de la Nation in Paris.
Most of those arrested were men. They were said to include Islamic radical Anjem Choudary, leader of the now-banned Islam4UK group in Britain. Fears of violence had prompted the Préfecture de Police to ban the protest.
The woman arrested in Avignon was heading to Paris for a TV interview on the burqa ban and said it was an “attack on my European rights, my freedom to come and go, my religious freedom”. She faces a €150 fine or a compulsory citizenship course.
Passed in October, the law against concealing your identity in a public place came into force today after a six-month delay for assimilation. It forbids the niqab full veil, which leaves only a small slit for the eyes, and the burqa, which is a full veil with a lace cover in front of the eyes. It is thought that up to 2,000 women wear the veils.
Forcing a woman to wear a burqa or niqab could lead to a penalty of 12-months’ jail and a €30,000 fine. The penalty is doubled for forcing a minor to wear the veil.
The law also bans people from wearing masks or full balaclavas, except during fetes, artistic performances or sports events.
Former presidential candidate Rachid Nekkaz, the spokesman for the group Don’t Touch my Constitution, said he planned to sell a house he owned in Choisy to pay the fines of any woman arrested for wearing the veil.
He added that he was against the present law but had supported previous plans to restrict a ban to closed public places, like banks, shopping centres, council offices and schools.
Mr Nekkaz has called for a silent vigil today on the Parvis in front of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.
The open wearing of religious icons and garments has been banned in French schools since 2004. It is forbidden for pupils, teachers and parents at school to wear veils, whether full or not, the Jewish kippa skullcap, large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans.
Photo: Kevin Browne-Fotolia