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. Capt Bligh

    If I was a shopkeeper I would put a sign on my door "Anyone with face covered is assumed to be a robber" and treat them accordingly.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  2. truth

    France and the RACIST PEOPLE IN IT SUCK!!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Nicolas


      You cannot hide your face in public, this law is as old as fu## !

      September 22, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • getreal

      Some posters should hide their face in their hands when in public...from shame.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  3. Gab

    I agree with many of you. If these people want to dress in their Niqabs, and Burqas then they need to stay in their country. DO NOT enforce your culture and beliefs on us. I know that If i moved to their countries, and did not obey to their laws I would either be imprisoned, stoned to death or possibly shot on the spot (Ok MAYBE i am exaggerating a little bit). In all honesty these people move to westernized civilization and think the laws do not apply to them. Not that long ago i read an article about a father who ran his own daughter over, because she became to westernized. Seriously? Did he really think his daughter would want to live a life of seclusion, while growing up around women who are able to express themselves? Why would they even consider moving to a western society, if they are not willing to adapt? Bravo France!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Abby

      I totally agree with you. I am so tired of people coming from one country, going to another and trying to enforce their belief. My Motto is go back home and leave us alone. You are right about going to their country. Shot, imprisoned and God knows what else would happen. AND they need to learn the language.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  4. getreal

    My position is that I believe in a country's right to make reasonable laws and have citizens abide by them. If a person does not agree with the law they can either leave the country or take efforts to change the law. Until the law is changed people need to adhere to the law. Plain and simple in my mind anyway.

    BUT... If you are one of these people that argue the point that "they don't let me do what I want in their country so..." I have to disagree with you. If you believe you are holding the high ground morally with your position then wouldn't you want to take a stance that is "morally" superior? Why point a finger at a country's policies that you disagree with and then use the arguement that you're just doing the same thing as them? Strange people.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  5. masonjar

    I wonder why Muslims think they are not subject to follow the laws of the land? If I go to a muslim country, I would have to wear a scarf on my head. So if France, passes a law that states they have to show their faces, why are they fighting this? It makes me so mad that they would stone a person in their country for not abiding their laws and all France is doing is passing a fine on these people. Maybe they should be stoned. That seems to be the only thing they understand, cruelty.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  6. To the Bigots Posting Here

    It's truly amazing how people continue to think of Muslims as Arabs. Are you aware that 85% of Muslims are not of Arab origin? Are you aware that Muslims have been in the United States for generations and "participate" in the productivity and protection of this country?? Please take a moment to crawl out from your shell and wake up. I am a third generation American Muslim – I watched people jump to their deaths and buildings crumble in front of me on 9/11 from my office while a family member in the FDNY perished trying to save others, and then watched other FDNY family members work around the clock for over a year at ground zero in rescue/recover/cleanup operations. My family is full of civil servants who spend their time trying to "give back" to this country so I am tired of hearing people say "go home". THIS IS MY HOME and has been for 3 generations! Why is it that I must hand in my patriotic beliefs to express my religious beliefs? (by the way, the Qur'an DOES explicity state that you must cover....for a Muslim who says they do not, they are kidding themselves. The Quran says to VEIL yourself. Where do you wear your pants? Where do you wear your socks? Where do you wear a veil?!? It's a ridiculous rationalization for those who are not willing to accept the modest dress we should don).
    Please stop punishing innocent Americans for the actions of an ignorant few.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  7. nemo12

    Perhaps I'm missing something, and please feel free to enlighten me, but if there are four different types of head/body gear that these people wear, and they apparently all serve the same purpose, then why is it ok for some Muslim women to wear less coverage than others? Are they less religious? It appears to me to be a regional thing rather than a religious thing. That said, wouldn't it then be fair to say that their insistence on wearing the full coverage is more about nationality than religion? And if thats the case, and they want so desperately to hold on to that ethnicity, why not go back to where they came from. The French people (or I should say, the French Government since the people had little to say about it) were nice enough to welcome them into their country and only asked that they embrace french culture and integrate into french society. Unfortunately that never happened and is clearly evidenced if you're brave enough to take a drive in the suburbs of Paris. These people had no intention of really becoming french citizens on anything but the paper that gave them the right to be there. They began complaining almost immediately, and haven't stopped since. I say that if you don't like the ban, go to London where they haven't figured out how to "politely" ban what they also dislike. But then again, I love London, and it pains me to see the growing hostility that will (sooner than later) boil over because the British are sick of the situation.
    So to the French I say, stick to your guns and tell the Burka wearing, bomb carrying, Christian haters that religious toleration goes both ways.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  8. hello

    and did no one notice that ALL other religious headwear that DOES show the face is ok????
    anyone that makes an argument about intolerance on France's part, utters the phrase 'human rights', or turns this into a sob-fest for the poor misunderstood *insert underdog religion of the week here* is poorly educated and narrow-minded

    France is looking at this secularly, why arent you???? grow up

    September 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  9. doodler

    Modesty, shmodesty.... its not modesty that put the burqa on you.... its you're crazy oppressive men!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  10. doodler

    At least Christianity doesn't teach HATE!!! Have you read your bibles lately people?

    BY THE WAY.... IF I WANT TO COVER MY ENTIRE BODY AND FACE and walk into a mall.....take out a gun and shoot the heck out of everyone. Will that THEN wake you up?

    September 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  11. hippypoet

    the french are mean, hateful peolpe...most of all they are stuck up....as i used to say – high chinned snobs... now when i was in france i was treated like less then the dirt on my shoes... the only thing i enjoyed was talking to the waiters – who would openly call you "ignorant american" as they read back you order... also being as lacostose intolent as i am, having them NOT put cheese on everything was a trial with deathly ends that i was not ready to be patient over due to the severity of my intolence! whatever, i left with less good things to say about france then before going! i think calling france Gaul is a better name, and shows the barbarian that still inhabits the area!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Tex71

      You sound like a stuck-up, high chinned American to me.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • getreal

      just like the treatment most outside people get in the good'ole US of A

      September 22, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • getreal

      Ya'll taint from around chere are yah? Git back in yah fancy car, with yah fancy clothes and go on back from where ya'll came from.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Edward

      Your comment really makes me want to avoid reading your poetry.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  12. Joe P Cox

    I'm all about human rights and freedom of religion, but I don't blame the French government in this case. If Muslims in France want to wear burqas then go back to the Middle East. You're in France, respect French law, culture, society. Enough said.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  13. Tex71

    Freedom of faith is a human right. Walking around in public masked and veiled in a world where terrorists blow up buildings full of innocent people is stupid at best and just plain defiantly anti-social at worst.
    Shame on France? No, shame on fundamentalist Muslims for making women feel like they have to cover their bodies. Shame on all fundamentalists of any religion for their guilt trips and medievalist ignorance and psychotic repressive control mechanisms. Especial shame on fundamentalists who harm others just for disagreeing with them.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  14. Seriously??

    If a man walked around covered up .... we'd assume he's crazy or robbing a bank. It's the same for a woman too. How can anyone be identified in crimes if you cover up completely. They should take this one step further and say "you can't wear a sheet in public too". And while you are at it, add " you can't wear too tight of clothing either". Both extremes are worthy of a FINE!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  15. Edward

    Why does anything about money or Islam have a comment board that rus bckward? Why does anything article about Islam or money not have a "like" button? Why does any discussion about money or Islam not allow you to see the replies of others in regard to your comment? Why cannot all article on CNN have the same comment board style? It sure seems like favoring certain subjects from discussion. See, no one can like this comment bringing it to the top of "most liked" comments. If anyone replies with a good response, I will never know. It freally is not a good system. Use the same comment board system for ALL articles on CNN and do not censor what we have to say on only certain subjects.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  16. getreal

    I have not been able to make a post since I used the word "pooornograaaaaaaphic" in my text. Freedom of what?

    September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  17. Andrew

    The Burqa is a very visible symbol of a religion whose radical adherents have committed mass attacks of terror and promise more to come. That said, it is also a article of religious faith and should be seen as protected expression. It's a quandry and will remain so until aforementioned radicals come to see the light that their ways of violence are a dead end or are all rendered dead themselves.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  18. Mario

    Let me start off by saying I lean left of the political spectrum, but this is the right call by France. The French have every right to make laws that they believe will make them safer. Where is the outcry from the West when it comes how people are other faiths are treated in Muslim countries, not because of they might be a threat to their security but because of their FAITH. In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan etc. Where is the outcry ?? Not here by the people who are crying about the civil right of those in France. I am calling BS...

    September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  19. Patrick

    France does not really fancy overt, displays of religion. The most you will get out of the French religion-wise is a midnight mass on Xmas, and a bunch of long weekends (assumption, ascension) whose religious significance is totally lost on the masses.
    Trust me, I am not into regulating fashion (I lived in the 70s, so if I were into that, I would have to throw myself into prison), but this particular fashion statement has a lot of baggage associate with it: namely separation of women from the rest of society. We all know now that separate is not equal.
    Perhaps if some burqa-enforcing society can produce public figures (like a captain of industry, or governor of a region/state) who wear that clothing, my perception would change. For now I see it as a form of oppression of women, and agree with France that the government should do it’s all to prevent further oppression.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  20. hello

    do they not realize that he ban against burqas is not a stab to their religion or a question of human rights? supposedly France passed this law for safety/security reasons, arguing that completely covering the face makes criminal identification impossible.

    however relevant that may or may not be, people need to stop turning everything into a soapbox or a human rights pi$$ing contest. stop whining.

    if youre going to move to a country that requires all citizens to be recognizeable for the purpose of (possible) criminal identification, deal with it. or leave. im sure Afghanistan is WAY better than France anyway.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:29 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.