The world's first ban on Islamic face veils took effect Monday in France, meaning that women may bare their breasts in Cannes but not cover their faces on the Champs-Elysees.
Two veiled women were hauled off from a Paris protest within hours of the new ban. Their unauthorized demonstration, on the cobblestone square facing Notre Dame Cathedral, was rich with both the symbolism of France's medieval history and its modern spirit of defiance.
While some see encroaching Islamophobia in the new ban, President Nicolas Sarkozy's government defended it as a rampart protecting France's identity against inequality and extremism. Police grumbled that it will be hard to enforce.
Remember back when the media was always lecturing about how bigoted and backward and provincial Americans were compared to the worldly and sophisticated French?