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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. COUNTRYCOOK

    They need to be ban everywhere. In this day and age of terror we just can't take any chances that it's really a terrorist under there.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  2. Acropolis

    A very brave and honorable decision by France.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  3. Rory

    Bravo France, bravo

    September 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  4. logic

    Deport Muzzies to middleeast so they can live comfortably and be a good muslims and Marry to 4 women and their women wear a black sheet.They can wear all the burqa they want in the MIDDLEEAST.

    MUZZIES TO MIDDLEEAST NOW and THEN BUILD A WALL.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  5. hijab couture

    France time to claim the 'haute couture' back from the hijabis.

    Unveil the veil!

    Go France!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Security guard

      Modesty is the key we don't want people walking naked in public, nor do we want to see black tombs walking around.

      It inhibits security!

      We want to be protected, who knows what lurks behind those masks in public places???

      September 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  6. Erik

    here in the united states, there are many places a person can not wear a ski mask and many public places where hats and glasses are banned. I am also the security officer for a bank. If someone came in to open an account or even cash a check wearing something that covered themselves such as a Burqa does... they would not recieve any service. This has nothing to do with religion...

    September 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • hahaha

      Agreed, but where is the line drawn between a private bank and a public park. People should be allowed to ban them in their establishments but how can a government generally ban it?

      September 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. bimpopooola

    Deport these potential terrorists to their countries of origin to face oppression and degradation. Let them go and dine/wine with the likes of ahmadinejad, al assad, gadhafi and the talibans that would violate their very lives and reduce their dignity to nothing. Go home terrorists! Western countries are too tolerant for their own good. Those lawbreakers should be jailed without an option of fine.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  8. Bo

    @Bobinator–1:09, cute sense of humor, Satan has just got to love it! I'm sorry that you have a warped idea what hell is like, it's not your fault since many Christians have the same idea. But, I don't think that God really liked slavery, even if the slavery was not the same it was in the early U.S. It would be interesting just to know when slavery began. The slavery was eveidently not the same, yet, I, as well as many others, cannot explain it. In many cases slaves were very trusted servents. Examples: Abraham had a very trsted sevant who went to get a wife for Isaac, Daniel and Joseph were very trusted slave/servants serving as prime ministers of the country. (Daniel served 4 kings) Nehemiah, Mordecai and Esther these were all well treated slaves. One thing was sure, God did not approve of abuse towards slaves. God lothed human sacrifice; so where did you come up with the idea that God approved human sacrifice?

    September 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  9. W.G.

    Today I posted earlier how I believe that muslims had a "Hidden Agenda" . How these 2 women challenged the law not for their rights but in an attempt to soften the law or to have France do away with it , even though it´s been proven that terroristshave used the burka in the past to slip through security checkpoints . I said that ALL muslims support islamic terrorism in one way or another . A well meaning "politically correct" person even directed me to a site where some muslims condemned terrorism . But the truth is they really don´t . I´m European and I´ve seen first hand how muslims will stand there
    in England and hold a protest where they carry signs at funeral prosessions for British soldiers condemning the UK but
    where these people when 9/11 happened or when in England we had the London Bombings . Where was there outrage then ? I saw them "dancing in the streets with joy on both occasions But when these atrocities happened all they did
    was "silently condemn " them in the secrecy of their own homes . Where was the outrage then the protest signs against
    the evil of murder . Muslims do have a Hidden Agenda but what´s really interesting is now without any prompting from me
    the rest of Europe is comming to realize that this "Cult" called islam serves not God at all but the exact opposite and my neighbors are realizing that these people are just islamic bullies bent on forcing their satanic cult down our throats

    September 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  10. aubrie

    France.... despite our idiot government....the American people support you 100%. Don't stop there.... After three citations or fines....jail them and let them wear the standard jail issue uniform like everyone else.....

    September 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Dean

      France, stand your ground. Muslims try to intimidate the world with their customs. You are not a muslim country. Your laws are directed at all groups of people. If muslims overturn this law, you just as well let them take your country, your language, your lives as you know it. They are predators, seeking to destroy anyone else that doesn't allow their every demand.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  11. guest

    @ just a woman, posted 1:02 (I doubt you are Muslim) so you think women should obey the law just as you do in a muslim country, but you don't want to obey the law where you go, fine stay at home.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  12. guest

    @pjgay, you posted 12:36 You are ready to give up–just like that, let them rule your life–wimp!

    September 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  13. Bo

    @hippypoet , I know that you are an atheist, but I thought you deseved a civil answer since you were being civil, I appeciate that. I know that it is a struggle to believe the Bible I like many Christians struggled with eveolution and creation even though many will not admit it. We don't know much about the tree of life, and according to the Bible, it was taken from man so he would not live forever as a sinner. But, can you imagine how sinful man was, living 100's of years and dreaming up more wicketness all the time. I believe they may have been more sophisticated than we would like to believe, and this intelligence stayed with men, but men became less intelliegent as the years went on untill these last days when knowlege has began to increase as told by Daniel 12:4. Just imagine the intelligence it took to build the pyamids, and the embalming process. It bogeles my mind. Fulfilled prophecies is what convinces me that the Bible is true.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • hippypoet

      ah, see i like your answers very much... i can agree in the sense that the bible is true, as a historic source but not a history. many of the people in the bible were in fact real people and so the things they did are also as real. however its certain people and things that are over time made different then there true selves. so i am saying is that the old testament is more a moral compass and the new testament is more a story of the time of joshua... you know him as jesus. now thru the writtings, the authors wrote into the pages real events the shaped their lifestyles and what formed the jewish culture today... making more of the heros then what was previously done. now as for joshua, that story was made to be more and mroe like that of solomon, every act that joshua did mirrors solomon...but what makes joshua greater is that he doesn't require a ring to cast out demons. have you read the story of solomon? not the story in the st. james bible but the story in the ethiopian bible... one of the oldest books ever written.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  14. cikame

    Gas masks arn't illegal i don't think, if you're going to be weird and silly you might as well go all out.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Dean

      Wearing a gas mask in public anywhere will get the authorities attention.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  15. boogietime

    Time for a burqa barbecue.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  16. jpgay

    I've returned to France after a 30+ year absence and let me tell you, it's an invasion here. There are segregationist muslims everywhere overtly practicing cultural apartheid by way of their garments and by a continuous show of their total disinterest in becoming integrated into the culture and ways of the french people. The time for discussions is over, it's time to do like they do and start the music.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  17. guest

    I'm glad this isn't in the U.S. the ACLU would be all over it! And down the road 50-60 yeard from now when Muslims are in control and the ACLU comes to them with a civil rights case they will be told: "Go fly a kite, we are the rule here, we will decide what is right and what is wrong, and by the way, get your burqa on before you are arrested."

    September 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  18. guest

    @ Muslim Islam, That's right, I believe Islamic countries would use this to start a war, just so the Islmics can rule, that is another good reason to have Muslims out of the country! So go!

    September 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  19. hippypoet

    @Bo , the tree of life involves me believing in the garden of eden in the first place.. i don't... i do however believe that there was a fountain, not life giving nor anything magical but healing... its like a mineral bath. now if the eden's garden thing is true is would be in nimrod's realm.. thats not an insult to anyone not knowing who nimrod was. i believe this only because the story of the great flood, it never reached as high as some mountain ranges... hence why people think noahs ark is on top of some mountain in turkey. near the kush..

    September 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • hippypoet

      when i said near the kush, i didn't mean the ark i mean the garden... a mountain river flowing down with minerals for the glacier rich in pretty much everything you need to grow..plus the climate makes for a great grow season.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  20. random

    what if gay people want to express themselves in a Muslim country or a girl wants to were a hot short skirt there?? KHALAS... did they ever think this before taking further actions...very hypocritical

    September 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Mandy

      Well, I lived in Egypt for 7 years and I saw straight men all over each other like white on rice and women wearing whatever they wanted. So your clever use of Arabic there didn't really prove a point to be honest. Also, I really don't think we need to hold the acts of "Muslim" nations as an example for western ones as it is pretty much understood, even by Muslims, that their laws suck. Hence the revolutions going on all over the region in case you haven't noticed them. We can look at KSA and Iran, the ones who very much enforce a way of dress and behavior in public, but what is the point? Their laws are horrible too. As my Dad always said, 2 wrongs don't make a right.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:23 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.