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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. guest

    @Ahmed, You are one of the Muslims that are to be feared!

    September 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Muslim Islam

    Where there is Law, There Must be a sin. Since they Law of a country said do not do this and that and you go ahead in the name of religion do it that mean u even have committed a crime to your God. You alone being violating the owl country law is bad. Muslim should learn how to make peace reign not fighting called jihad, this is a mean to start war in france.......

    September 22, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  3. random

    you can express yourself as long as it doesn't interfere with national security...

    September 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  4. Bo

    @Hippypoet You ask about the longivity of the people B4 5ye flood. The answer may not seem obvious, but there are two reasons. Adam and Eve partook of the tree of life and the potency of that fruit was so powerful that it lasted for generations. The second was, and check this out, B4 the flood mankind was vegetarian–no animal products in their diets, after the flood mankind began to eat meat, and if you follow the geneologies you will discover that the longgevity of mankind dropped very rapidly. Seth, who was born B4 the flood lived almost 200 years longer than his greatgrandson Abraham. I mean, he was still living when Abraham died. That is how much the introduction of meat into the diet affected mankind, but it can't be fixed in a couple generations. Have you read about the tree of life in the Bible? It must have some life sustaing power in it.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • hippypoet

      right, i can't buy that seeing that meat has been a part of our (the human species) for over 200,000 years... but that was atleast an attempt, with a good rational thought pattern too...i can't say much for others that i have aked this too.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Chuckles

      Honestly, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we just eat from the tree of knowledge and not life? Or is that we were allowed to so we obviously did?

      As for the meat thing, can't buy it considering we produce the protiens needed to eat it and our teeth are shaped to eat meat, which is why you can't just randomly introduce meat into the diet of a herbivoire, it would literally kill them.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • I = rubber, U = glue

      @Bo

      So, Adam and Eve ate a potent life-giving apple. The life-giving attributes from this one magic apple are passed on to their kids. These attributes are diluted somehow when they are passed on to their kids. Meat counter acts the magic life-giving attributes from the diluted apple over generations. Herbivores live longer than carnivores. It all makes so much sense now.

      BTW, there is not enough water on earth to completely flood it. Even if all the ice in the world was melted, we would still have access to roughly 64% of land that is currently accessible. This means that as the flood waters grow, people in Colorado don't miss a beat. This also means that there is dry land where plants, animals, and sinning humans continue to live and would not need to sit all domesticated on an ark together.

      I'm just saying that your original post was an incredible work of fiction.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  5. fuzzball

    Sarkozy is a smallish man standing next to Carla Bruni which is why he wears high heels. He desperately wants to prove his tough manhood but can't say anything to Carla for fear of getting slammed to the floor so he picks on few Muslim women who want to cover their face to prove that he can do it.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  6. Ali

    This practice is born out of slave ownership of women, it has nothing to do with Islamic religious practice. Nowhere in Koran does it specifically indicate that women need to be covered in such manner. Extreme Hejab dates back before Islam in the SE Asia and North Africa desert regions. This all due to Bedouin tribal life and the use of human as slaves. Any decent Muslim would be against this inhumane misogynistic practice.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Guest

      Whatever the gensis of the practice, is it not/should it not be the right of every woman to decide what she will/will not wear? Many modern practices and conventions have questionable roots.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • fuzzball

      @Ali. You are wrong. There is a verse in the Quran describing a Muslim woman's dress but it only says "modest" dress code. Some scholars believe that face covering is compulsory in this verse sighting some instances and other scholars believe that face covering is not a compulsion. This is why you see most Muslim women just cover their head but there are Muslim women who believe face covering is compulsory so they follow it... mostly in Gulf Arab, Afghanistan and northern part of Pakistan. To say that face covering have no bearing in islam is wrong.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  7. Ahmed

    It's freedom of her top wear Burqa, when you ban it... So France you doesn't have Freedom anymore!
    Specially you agree to women that don't wear and bunish woman that is demure!

    September 22, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  8. Mathilda

    Hippy, read Genesis chapter 1-9. It's all there. Some statements seem to be recorded as the phenomena took place. Get a study Bible to understand better. Hippy, be humble before God. Ask Him to help you meet Him and understand His truth in His Word. Then read the text with an honest, open mind. Ask questions and research, never ridicule, when you face difficult passages. God designed the Bible that only humble, honest and diligent humans can get it. His Spirit teaches His people.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • hippypoet

      well as the non believer that i am, i do enjoy reading the bible.. i always have. the best part in my mind is when david is fighting saul and instead of killing him chooses to cut a piece of sauls cloak to show him that david would never be against saul, but if saul was to try and kill david again, then its on!

      but i find that having an open mind is far more important for the believers then it is for us non believers as we have already made the choice to read first then make the final desicion later, once all the FACTS are in. desicion, yes i know that is spelt wrong, thank you.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  9. Andrew

    for everyone saying "follow the law or go back home", keep in mind that this is a new law, not something that has been around since before immigration to France from the Middle East. Keep in mind also that as citizens, French Muslims need to have their opinions and rights reflected in the laws of France too, not just those of non-Muslims. You can argue if you want that the law has some legitimacy, as police do need to be able to identify people. It can just as easily be argued against based on civil and religious liberties. However, and to say "just go home" is blatantly full of bigotry and hate. If you want to discuss the issue go for it, but the majority of the comments here contain no actual arguments.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  10. Oh Dear

    What a sore sight in a country that boasts as the fashion capital of the world!

    You go France!

    September 22, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  11. Dee

    I just have one comment, and I do have friends who are muslims and have no issue with that at all, however, when it was time for me to ask for a visa to visit a muslim country, I was denied as I was not wearing head covering. Isn't this a little of a double standard?

    September 22, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Andrew

      double standard or not, France is a country, like the US, where the liberties of all its citizens are supposed to be protected. We can't base our laws on those of other countries just for spite.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Guest

      So what are you saying, that France (and, by association) other western democracies should use fundamentalist islamic countries as something to aspire to in their protections of civil rights. Sure, there are many horrible countries in the world which are ruled by dictatorial regimes, some rleigiously based, others not. But it is up to us to do what is right, not to emulate those backward and repressive countries. And allowing religious freedom/tolerating religious differences is one of the hallmarks of a free and open society. Shouldn't that be what we all aspire to be?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • eddantes

      @Andrew, this is a security issue, how are you suppose to recognize a person when that person is covered from head to toe, especially if they are caught on camera during an assault, robbery or any other crime? How? Let's see...”I saw a lady covered from head to toe robbing a bank" not a very good description is it?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Guest

      So id they ban orthodox jewish kippas and beards and long coats and prayer shawls? What about RC (and other) clerical garb? What about nonreligious head scarves and modes of dress? Is the law specifically written to ban the burqua, or to collectively ban any mode of dress that obscures some part of the body? And if the latter, are sunglasses and/or wigs toupees banned?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Waseem

      Can you please tell me which Muslim country are you talking about.I haven't heard of any. There might be one or two but why you people always want to walk naked in the streets.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  12. Mathilda

    @Hippy-: Before the Noah's flood, probably there was a protective water vapor shield which shuns all the harmful rays from the sun on our planetary surface. Even after Adam's sin, God meant us to have 1,000 year-long life, but people at Noah's time even changed it. Mankind is evil, Hippy. Believe in Jesus and obtain eternal life. God(Jesus) is coming back to restore everything but non-believers will miss it.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Chuckles

      too long of a comment, make it shorter

      where in the bible does it say there's a vapor shield and why in anyway would that lengthen life?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • hippypoet

      that is not an answer, that was a made up story... there is no proof to a protecive vapor covering the planet'

      September 22, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  13. TheMann

    OBEY THE LAW...It's not about freely walking in the street...Were that garment in your own country, not in a country that it is BANNED AND THEN FIGHT IT???????? You are very arrogant & ignorant..Thats..Get a life you pathetic Loser

    September 22, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  14. Abby

    All of this does not come to Just the Muslims. The Haitians are worse. At least the Muslims work. Haitians have their hand out and want everything for free and if they don't get it they call a lawyer. i would love to send them all back to some Island but then they would ned to work. DARN. The Muslim women are forced to wear those cool looking outfits. Wouldn't they love to break out in some high heels and Jeans and get their hair done.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  15. 16 $ muffin

    Dear People on the Planet:

    Religious freedom only applies to the Muslims
    The infidels you dare not talk about freedom,

    yeah right!

    You go France!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  16. mohammadreza

    what is the difference between these so-called modern states and our stone-aged gov. in Iran? in our country hijab is forced upon women through treats and beating and the like and in your countries it is banned via the same coercion...you are both two sides of one coin.....

    September 22, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  17. a true muslim

    u shud fight for it................go!!!!!! we r wid u!!!!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  18. Mathilda

    Let Muslims experience what it means to lose some freedom, though this is nothing comparing to the suffering of infidels in the Islamic land. Honest Muslims should reform their countries of origins on behalf of infidels and women there instead of wasting the time of governments in the West. The West gives too much freedom to everyone.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • hippypoet

      one does not give freedom, you were born free. One can only take away what you allow them to and if you allow them to.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • JohnQuest

      I think you mean too much freedom to those you don't agree with?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  19. hippypoet

    forget france, they do nothing for anyone else... this is about human rights, and they don't seem to care!

    September 22, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  20. Mathilda

    Muslims don't give anyone any freedom of conscience in their land. They should leave the West if they don't like the law. Muslims just like poking the lenient Western governments for trivial things. Wearing burqas is non-essential practice of Muslims.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • hippypoet

      you going to run away again? see i was really hoping for a conversation about how exactly the earth was different before the flood.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Mathilda

      @Hippy, you always catch me in bad time. I'll give you 10 minutes. Never write me a lengthy comment.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • hippypoet

      please explain the difference between the earth b4 the flood and now? how did the human race once age to over 600 years old?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Mathilda

      Hippy, look up above. Find my comment.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:25 am |
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About this blog

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.