France will become the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to apply the ban, starting April 11.
But officers have been ordered to apply the legislation with tact and diplomacy so as not inflame tensions, interior ministry guidelines leaked to the French press yesterday reveal.
Under the new law, women who wear face-covering Muslim veils, including the niqab and burka, in “public places” in France face being fined £125 or ordered to follow citizenship classes, or both.
The ban encompasses “the street and areas open to the public, as well as cinemas, restaurants, stations, public transport or schools”. Veils must also be removed while driving, while crossing borders or taking part in official ceremonies to acquire French nationality.
Husbands and fathers who force such veils on women and girls risk a year of prison and a £25,000 fine, with both penalties doubled if the victim is a minor.
But a nine-page document signed by Claude Guéant, the interior minister, stipulates that women wearing the full veil cannot be forcibly obliged to remove them in public.
Officers who stop a woman wearing the garment must instead “invite the person to show their face in order to check their identity and establish a fine.”
If the woman persists, officers are instructed to take her to the nearest police station “as a last resort,” but not to either place her in custody or keep her waiting for more than four hours.
If she still refuses to comply, the rules state that police should contact the public prosecutor.
Rather than force, police are invited to employ “persuasion” and, where possible, involve a female officer.
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