The Washington Post is reporting that France's new ban on Islamic face veils was met with a burst of defiance Monday as several women appeared veiled in front of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral and two were detained for taking part in an unauthorized protest. About a dozen people — including three women wearing niqab veils with just a slit for the eyes — said that the ban is an affront to their freedom of expression and religion.
Much larger crowds of police, journalists and tourists filled the square.
France on Monday became the first country to ban the veils anywhere in public, from outdoor marketplaces to the sidewalks and boutiques of the Champs-Elysées. French President Nicolas Sarkozy set the wheels in motion for the ban nearly two years ago, saying the veils imprison women and contradict this secular nation's values of dignity and equality.
The ban enjoyed wide public support when it was approved by Parliament last year. Though only a very small minority of France's at least 5 million Muslims wear the veil, many Muslims see the ban as a stigma against the country's No. 2 religion. The law says that veiled women risk a €150 ($215) fine or special citizenship classes, though not jail.
There is a fine line between religious expression and the oppression of women. "Special citizenship classes" seem condescending and colonial. Some women choose to wear the veil, while others are made to wear it. It is an expression of their religion, whether we agree with it or not. We're all for women's rights, but religious expression should be a choice, which makes France's move questionable. They're not giving women a choice, so how is this better? If women choose to wear the veil, then they're penalized by the government economically, socially and ideologically. Again, how is this better?
Read more at the Washington Post.
In other news: Sharpton and West's MSNBC Shouting Match.