French police will from Monday become the first officers in Europe empowered to intercept Muslim women wearing full-face veils and to threaten them with fines if they refuse to expose their faces.

While some other countries and territories have drawn up bans on the burqa and the niqab, France -- home to Europe's largest Muslim population -- will be the first to risk stirring social tensions by putting one into practice.

The law comes into effect at an already fraught moment in relations between the state and France's Muslim minority, with President Nicolas Sarkozy accused of stigmatising Islam to win back votes from a resurgent far right.

Read the complete original version of this item...