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French law banning Islamic veils comes into force


France's controversial law banning the wearing of Islamic veils in public places came into force on Monday.

The ban applies to the burqa, which covers the whole body and leaves a veil over the face, and the niqab, which covers the face and leaves an opening for the eyes.

The fine for breaking the new law is 150 euros.

The French government says the new law is designed to make Muslim women integrate into society. But softly-spoken single mum Hind Ahmas says it’s had the opposite effect.

"My friend told me on the phone: listen, I will not go out"

The new ruling has made some people scared to speak out, but many vow not to change the way they dress.

Businessman Rachid Nekkaz says the move undermines what the French republic stands for. He pledges to pay the 150 euro fine for anyone who continues to wear a veil, and is taking the dispute further.

"We are going to bring a complaint against the French state before the European Court of Human Rights, so that French state will be punished."

AbderRahmane Dahmane was fired as Nicolas Sarkozy's integration adviser last month after criticizing the president’s approach. He now calls on French Muslims to wear a star similar to the one forced on Jews by the Nazis.

He believes the government should learn to negotiate.

"There is such a medium as negotiations, why have a war when we can negotiate?"

Opinion polls show record low approval ratings for the French government - with accusations that it's deliberately stirring interracial tension.

France has seen ugly riots in recent years against government policies. There are signs of more brewing.

Josef Jennings, from center for European policy studies says: "It is a distinct possibility, especially when domestic decisions and events and foreign decisions and events come together."

Those foreign events have also outraged partners in Europe.

Jennings blames France's illegal deportation of Roma, its bombing of Libya and the Ivory Coast without consulting allies, and sending North African refugees back to Italy in the face of international anger. That’s split the Franco-German axis that drives the EU.

"This axis as it has been called some times is not functioning", Jennings said.


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