French court hands down first “burqa ban” fines

September 22, 2011

(Hind Ahmas (R) wears a niqab despite a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil and displays a cheque of 120 euros to pay a fine after she was arrested for wearing the niqab in public last May, as she arrives at the courts in Meaux, east of Paris, September 22, 2011. French property developer Rachid Nekkaz (L) who holds the cheque to pay the fine of a second woman who was not present/Charles Platiau)

A French court fined two Muslim women on Thursday for wearing full-face veils in public, the first time a judge has imposed punishment under a “burqa ban” law that has become a legal and cultural battleground across Europe. One of the women pledged immediately to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ban, which President Nicolas Sarkozy says protects women and guarantees equality but opponents argue violates human rights and panders to xenophobia.

Only a tiny percentage of French Muslim women wear full-face veils. But the law, which took effect in April, has become a focus of debate in mainly-secular Europe, where right-wing parties hostile to Muslim immigration are gaining support. The Strasbourg-based European court can consider whether to overturn the French law now that a French court has enforced it. A ruling in Strasbourg could have an impact in other EU countries which are considering similar laws.

“(This) violates European laws. For us the question isn’t the amount of the fine but the principle. We can’t accept that women are sentenced because they are freely expressing their religious beliefs,” Hind Ahmas told reporters outside the court, where she was fined 120 euros. “We are going to launch the necessary appeals to bring this before the European Court and obtain the cancellation of this law, which is in any case an illegal law,” she said.

Read full story by Pauline Mevel in Meaux here.


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One comment

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This is truly an illegal law. You can not stop anybody to wear any religious dress. This is totally stupidity. And this is not the way of democracy.

Posted by Msojib | Report as abusive