September 22nd, 2011
03:56 AM ET

Burqa ban opponent fined by French court

By Saskya Vandoorne, CNN

(CNN) - A woman fighting France's ban on Islamic face coverings was fined 120 euros ($162) Thursday for wearing a burqa, the first fine handed down by a French court over the controversial law.

Hind Ahmas sought out the punishment so she could take her fight to a higher court, she told CNN. A second woman, Najet Ait Ali, was fined 80 euros ($108) in the same court appearance.

"I am happy to be fined, since I can now take this to the European Court of Human Rights," Ahmas said.

"It's not about the amount I have to pay. It's about the principle," she said, calling the ban "pure provocation. I'm fighting to be able to walk freely in the street."

Rachid Nekkaz, of a group called Don't Touch My Constitution, later turned up at the courthouse with a check to cover the cost of each fine, offering to pay the penalty for every woman fined for wearing a face covering.

The court hearing came after the website of the city of Rennes was defaced by a hacker in protest at the burqa ban and a ban on public street prayers that went into effect last Friday.

"You allow women to walk around half-naked but you don't allow Muslim women to cover their body? Shame on you France, Muslims are people too," read a message posted on the city website.

The site was attacked at about 6 p.m. Monday night and was operating normally again about 24 hours later, said city spokesman Manuel Contin, who said he did not know why Rennes was targeted.

The court did not explain why the two women got different fines. They were not ordered to take citizenship courses - another possible sentence under the law that came into effect in April.

They were arrested May 5.

A woman wearing a burqa and three wearing hijabs - which do not cover the face and so are not illegal - came to court to hear the verdict. There was also a small but noticeable police presence at the municipal courthouse in Meaux, east of Paris.

Ahmas and Ali are not the first women to be fined under the controversial ban.

Police in the Paris suburb of Yvelines issued an on-the-spot fine that was believed to be the nation's first punishment for breaking the law the day it went into effect.

A 28-year-old woman was fined 150 euros (about $215) April 11, according to police.

Police declined to specify whether the woman was wearing a burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, or a niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes.

Both are banned by the new French law, which has drawn criticism from some human rights and religious organizations and some Muslims as discriminatory. France has Western Europe's largest Muslim population.

Police in Paris arrested two veiled women April 11, but said those arrests were for participating in an unapproved demonstration.

The law allows women who are cited for wearing an illegal veil to pay the fine or perform community service. It reserves harsher treatment for anyone who forces a person to wear a veil. That is punishable by a year in prison and a 30,000 euro fine (about $43,300). Forcing a minor to wear the veil is punishable by two years in prison and 60,000 euros.

Authorities say the prohibition is necessary for national security reasons as well as to uphold French values of equality, dignity and national identity.

The French Constitutional Council said the law does not impose disproportionate punishments or prevent the free exercise of religion in a place of worship, finding therefore that "the law conforms to the Constitution."

But critics argue the government has no business telling people what clothes to wear or how to practice their religion.

"I am free to do whatever I want and this is a choice that I want to make," wrote Hebah Ahmed, a blogger. "And just because somebody doesn't accept my interpretation of Islam or personally like it doesn't mean that we can use laws to violate people's freedom of expression and freedom of religion."

–CNN's France Costrel contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: France • Islam

soundoff (692 Responses)
  1. Nick987654

    These "people" complain about freedom of religion in France when they have to pay a fine for breaking a law that helps to protect the public. In the muslim countries Christians, Jews, Hindus and other religions are jailed and murdered for practicing their religions. They will not be happy until the world returns to the "Dark Ages." And they call us the "Great Satan."

    October 12, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  2. rachelternes

    The image accompanying the description of a chador does not depict a chador! Those three women are wearing a combination of a hijab and an abaya (the black robe). A chador is held on by grasping the edges of the cloth beneath the chin with one hand. That is the defining characteristic. It would be impossible to dance or operate a camera, as the women in the photo are doing, were they wearing chadors. This is a chador: http://www.worldofstock.com/slides/PCU5692.jpg

    October 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  3. Haime52

    Just another example of people who think they can give you freedom by, well, by taking it away. We, in the west, see the burka and the hijab as oppressive to women. In many ways, so is the bikini. Women feel the need to please men so they make themselves extremely immodest to appease the males. One forces modesty the other immodesty, both can, repeat can, be a form of oppression. Then, on the other hand, there are those who wish to be one or the other, can you make a willing slave free? He/she would hate you!

    September 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  4. SilverTrail

    Muslims should uphold religious freedom in their home countries if they don't like restriction against themselves. This burqa thing is even nothing to them.

    September 24, 2011 at 3:58 am |
  5. yahmez

    You may not agree with "Reality" but his post is on topic and not obscene. It is not spam, unlike the god squad and tea party posts to the forums of CNN's science articles.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  6. indonesian

    I say "lets let the burqas go with it" but they must put to a wheeled cage and their male family take it to everywhere they want it to go with just like in Iran modelled countries.

    The islam peoples think wrongfully about the words "democracy as freedom".

    They thought "it was freedom in democracy secular to do anything i want as it my human rights issue."

    September 23, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  7. Debbie

    Believe it or not, those burkas would be the same as wearing Halloween costumes around and it is a security issue just like wearing bandanas across my face when entering a bank or any place really or wearing hoods in stores. It's the same as wearing a disguise and there are laws againist that. There is religious freedom, but there are limits to this right. One other really important thing is this, you can wear the Hijab or the chador instead which shows your face, conforms to your religious beliefs and is legal which is what is required in France. Good luck France.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Haime52

      So, here in the good ole US of A, those who have had the entire faces tatooed should be arrested as security risks?

      September 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  8. Reality

    From p. 15:

    From p. 14:

    Saving this very sweaty lady and all of her Muslim sisters:

    For those who are reading challenged:


    For those who are not reading challenged:

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    September 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • .........

      spam alert repeated copy paste do not read hit report abuse to all reality postings

      September 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Truth

      looks like you just hate Islam... Well dude even after writing these you still claim yourself to be saving the world... save yourself dude..

      September 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.