PARIS -- 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.
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-Elysees.
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.