France Starts Ban Of Full-Face Veils In Public, Sparking Muslim Protests

The French ban on full-face veils that went into effect Monday was immediately met with defiant protest, leading to the arrest of at least two women.

About a dozen protesters clad in the veils gathered in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in an unauthorized demonstration.

Police said they took two women into custody after they refused to disperse.

On Saturday, police arrested 61 people - including 19 women - for holding an outlawed protest in Paris against the ban.

France has become the first country to ban such veils in public places, with President Nicolas Sarkozy saying they fly in the face of the country's secular values of equality.

The ban was voted in by parliament with wide popular support.

While only a tiny portion of France's 5 million Muslims actually wear veils, they have viewed the ban as an attack on their freedom of religion.

"I will, under no circumstances, stop wearing my veil," said Kenza Drider. "If I am warned verbally and must appear before the local prosecutor ... I will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights."

The law imposes a $215 fine on anyone wearing a veil in public and a $43,000 fine on anyone who forces a woman to wear a veil.

While moderate Muslim leaders say that Islam does not require women to wear veils, many have expressed unease with a ban.

Plans for the ban set off protests in Pakistan and led to threats of retribution from Al Qaeda.