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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. Mark

    "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." Hebah.. go back to the stan where they FORCE you to wear a Burgua or hajib & where you have no choice! & can not interpret Isam as you like... you moved to a western society.. so adapt to the customs they have!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "you moved to a western society.. so adapt to the customs they have!"
      You mean like freedom of religion?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > You mean like freedom of religion?

      Freedom of religion does not permit you to do whatever you want. What if public urination is part of your religion, do you get to do it willy nilly? What if you like to do cocaine as part of your belief, do you get to do that?

      No one is telling this lady what she can and cannot believe. They are saying to her "you cannot obstruct your face". No different then someone walking around with a ski mask or something else. The fact that her religious beliefs force her to wear something like that isn't the state's concern.

      When you make a choice you have to live with the consequences. Other people shouldn't have to bend over backward to accomidate what you've chosen to do.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  2. Jen K

    Go France!!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • David Telliho

      She says she wants to walk freely in the streets. That poor woman is in so much of the mooslum bondage, she doesn`t know what freedom is. Well m,lady, if you read this , remember, Jesus loves you !

      September 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • so

      David, actually, Jesus doesn't give a cr-ap because he's long dead and wasn't divine.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  3. Marie

    Oh boy, I can't believe everybody agrees with France for once!!! I am French living in NYC for the past 16 years. Recent Muslim immigrants, mostly from Africa, come to Europe without any willingness to adapt to their new country. When you read Ayan Irsi Ali's books, you realize it all too well. Multiculturalism is a failure. Opening more mosques, islamic schools, etc... only encourages not to assimilate. If these women want to wear a burqua, they can certainly do so in back in their country. If you immigrate, you must embrace your new country. I did, wholeheartedly.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • scott

      You're no longer allowed to speak french, or speak with a french accent. Do so in your own country.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • rxs

      Marie. It is nice to know that a french has embraced the American way of life. Most I have met have not.
      I guess this means you shave, take a shower everyday, and don't smell. If not, then I think you should head back home as well.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Marie

      Scott, I believe you missed my point. Oh, and I do not have ze French accent. Sorry!!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Marie

      No rxs, that means I am obese, obsessed with reality shows, and when told "Paris" I think "Hilton. Now, can I stay?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • And So What?

      Point of correction: You should say Arabs from North Africa,not simply "Africans." Since when did dark skin people(Africans) start imposing their culture on Europeans? Get your facts straight.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Tanveer Khan

      Re:"No rxs, that means I am obese, obsessed with reality shows, and when told "Paris" I think "Hilton. Now, can I stay?"

      Love it!
      If I was not married, I would ask you for a date..

      September 22, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  4. Lauren

    Who's provoking whom? Bravo France

    September 22, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  5. Victoria Adeyemi

    As it is, people are free to worship whoever they believe in provided it is in accordance with the Law (s) of that particular country they sojourn, and if they violate any of the law (s), the country has every right to punish offenders as it is in this report. But in this case and in order to curb terrorism threats from anybody, the hatred for any religion does not apply. To be fair in the judgement passed by the court, these women were not asked to leave France. Law is law and it is not a respecter of persons, colour, language or race. Even if the maker of the law contravenes the law, the law breaker will be punished. So, we should learn how to shun sentiments when it comes to the issues of securing lives and properties. We need peace in the world and not violence. And anybody that causes violence should be treated as the enemy of the society.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • MARS

      I agree 100%

      September 22, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Steve D

      Great post! Agree also!

      September 23, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  6. E.S.

    I have no problem with this fine. Western woman in Saudi Arabia must cover up their hair, wear clothes to below their ankle and wrist, similar in many other Muslim nations. If that is the norm there, and Westerner's have no right to argue the point or they are arrested by the morality police, why should Muslim women believ it is OK to walk the streets of a Western city covering their face. I only hope the French extend the ban also to Hasidic Jews and their ridiculous reliogious costumes as well. It should be considered child abuse forcing small children to dress so ridiculously, with their curly que hairdos from birth, the men and their ridiculous furry hats, and the woman all wearing wigs on their shaved heads. And let's not forget the whole chopping off the you know what! Jews can be just as fundamentalist in their religion as the Muslims!

    September 22, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • TrainBear

      Antisemitic much? How a law about covering the face have anything to do with customary dress of other religions which don't cover teh face?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • ES

      TrainBear, how typical when anyone vere dares to comment on the bizarre, or screwed up tradition of the Jewish faith, some idiot right away flies the 'anti-semetic' card. Finding the Hasidic tradions bizarre, archaic, stupid, inhumane or abusive is not being anti-semetic you putz! It is just telling it like it is. Grow the F up!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  7. tj

    Good on you France!! Fantastic idea by implementing this law. and the women need to get serious, its not freedom,they're just weearing these things because if they don't, they'll probably get beaten at home by their husbands or their family! who wants to be in a black curtain burning when you can wear normal clothes. you dont have to be butt naked, but there is a middle point. and if they have a problem with the law, im sure the french government wont mind if they leave and go back to their muslim nations where the government encourages burkas!

    September 22, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • arim

      pls make sure u understand the issue before u comment. if indeed, as u claim that the women wear the burqa onli to escape bad treatment to be handed down by their families mind u they have the right to live on their own, which means they can leave the family home for good, but soo long as they remain in the family homes it means they value the wearing of the burqa. and who told u that france is a christian country? r u sayiing so because muslims dont have rights? if gays have rights how much more muslims?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Nicholas Robinson

      I think women caught wearing burquas in public in a non-islamic theocracy (ie. any Western nation) should just be given a written warning. The second time, they should be immediately deported back to the country they came from with no possibility of readmittance. They might get the picture then. For people born in France, they should be deported to Saudi Arabia or Iran.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  8. Ember

    The wearing of the burka is as decreed by Muslim men. How the women consider that freedom of expression is beyond me.
    If you left your country to emigrate to another – your reason must be great disatisfaction of some kind. So why do you want to bring the yoke with you. When in Rome,do as the Romans do and obey the laws that allowed the country to offer you respite from religious slavery.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • And So What?

      Sure!! Good point!!

      September 22, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  9. Kaffir

    If muslims don't like it then they can get the fvck out! and take their terrorist religion with them.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • muslim girl

      Islaaaaaaam is not a terrorist religion it's calling for peace just keep that in mind

      September 22, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • M

      Muslim Girl: I am sorry but I don't think your theory is going to fly, especially the way things are.

      September 22, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  10. hesalive

    Satan loves a religion that rejects the divinity of Jesus Christ. That way nobody gets saved from their sins, and hell gets even more crowded.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • TrainBear

      Because 5 billion people must be wrong... Oh we should probably include all but ~30,000 Christians b/c they don't comform to your specific view point, right?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > Satan loves a religion that rejects the divinity of Jesus Christ. That way nobody gets saved from their sins, and hell gets even more crowded.

      The bible was written by satan. How else do you explain a good God endorsing slavery and human sacrifice?

      September 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  11. W.G.

    I salute France for sticking to it´s guns . It´s a proven fact that terrorists have used this method to slip past security
    checkpoints . Who knows maybe this was the way Bin Laden slipped into pakistan (also with the help ofthe paki gov).
    All muslims have an agenda , it´s stupid and dangerous to belive only afew support islamic terrorism . These women
    may have seemed to be persuing their rights but more than likely they were trying to soften or even stop these
    laws to help terrorists come into France . Sounds unbelievable ? Well ... who would of thought as a means of
    protest that this so called "religion of peace" would´ve flown planes into a couple of buildings in N.Y. just a few years ago .

    September 22, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • E.S.

      You are an idiot! 'All Muslims have an agenda' what an assinine thing to say. With your idiotic logic one could likewise say all Jews have an agenda to control the United States, to destroy Palestine, and to never have peace. Perhaps you are the typical ignorant American that believes anything FOX news or the Religious Right whacko brigade tells you, but luckily the vast majority of the rest of the world can and do take a more balanced view. I hope that like so many yanks, you don't have a passport, and remain with in your own little borders and stay the hell away from teh rest of the world. We do not need an ill informed racist moron such as you. Stay where you belong, in idiot-ville USA!

      September 22, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Irina

      "All Muslims have an agenda" That statement alone proves you are just an ignorant person who makes broad generalizations about millions of people based on what a very small percentage has done. FAIL!

      September 22, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • W.G.

      I am European and have witnesses first hand the hidden "muslim agenda".
      If they are not supportive of terrorism then there would be more outcry
      in the streets by muslims against terrorism . I never even once seen
      or heard of such a thing have you ?? However when the Americans
      had there 9/11 the muslims were dancing in the streets . We in europe
      are tired of these islamic bullies . Many of my neighbors are starting to realize
      that YES ! There is a "hidden muslim Agenda" .

      September 22, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • David

      It's a proven fact that Islamic terrorists have used blonde, Western women because idiots like you think racial profiling Arabs (a minority in Islam) works.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  12. ilias

    i think this is a violation of people,s right. when people try to be modest you are imposing fines on them but those that move about the street naked are seen to be civilized. but what is the result of this civilization immorality and promiscuity

    September 22, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Una

      Being modest does not require you to cover your face. That is what France banned and i whole heartedly agree with them.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • me

      So to you covering your face and letting only your eyes out is being modest.... so a bulgar with a mask and guns under his clothes is modest as well....
      I don't understand why a woman likes to have her face covered and even worse have her kids cover their faces as well? Why?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  13. tom

    Normally, I'd think this was a violation of people's rights. But I am not concerned when the right is the right to be an idiot.

    Really now: when will these stupid religions evaporate like gastrointestinal gas, and just float away on the refuse dump of history? They do nothing but produce waste.

    So as far I am concerned... do what you want to these idiots.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  14. sum it up

    Religion is not necessary to have good ethics or lead an altruistic lifestlye. Quite possibly just the opposite is preferable.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:18 am |
  15. G14

    Its about time. Religion is for the church and home. In public anyone who covers up their faces completely in the name of any religion should be fined for a first offence, imprisoned for a second offence and deported for a third offence.
    If you have something to hide then do it in another country.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  16. gliese42

    Well done France. When is US going to implement this law?

    September 22, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  17. newGuy42

    YES! That will show Al-Qaeeda! Don't let women cover their faces! I feel so much safer already

    September 22, 2011 at 6:46 am |
    • Scott Key

      You should. Recently suicide bombers have been dressig up like woman to get into the green zone in Iraq and Afghanistan to murder people at the embassies. So, despite your tongue in cheek comment you should think beyond your sarcasm.

      September 22, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Scott Key

      You should. Recently suicide bombers have been dressig up like woman to get into the green zone in Iraq and Afghanistan to murder people at the embassies. So, despite your tongue in cheek comment you should think beyond your sarcasm...

      September 22, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • W.G.

      To newguy42 – It´s already been proven time after time that terrorists use this method to slip in and out of countries .
      This is one of the biggest problems in the west and will help bring it´s downfall . The fact that "Idiotic Bleeding Hearts "
      like you believe that muslims do not have an "agenda" . They do , all of them are involved to a degree in terroristic support .
      This so-called "protest" is just an attempt to try to soften or do away with this law a law that just might save lives .

      September 22, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  18. His Boy Elroy

    They should have been locked up.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  19. BG

    Good. Now they need to apply the law fairly and consistently to all muslims in violation everywhere in France.

    We need the same law in the U.S. Great Britain should enact it as well, but they're too busy giving their country away and can't be bothered.

    The Scandinavian countries will probably try now given that they've all recently elected some politicians who willing to make proper decisions.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:10 am |
  20. Larfin

    Arrest them for failure to appear! Quick! Look underneath that tablecloth! There they are! Get them!

    September 22, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • Habs

      your point?

      September 22, 2011 at 8:32 am |
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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.