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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. Fritz

    Radical Islam has no place in a civilized country. We need this law in Sweden too. Immigrants are using the burqa to make themselves unemployable in order to live of welfare plus there is a security risk. Unfortunately the political correctness that permeates our society here in Sweden stops any effort to deal with radical Islam. I applaud the French!

    September 23, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  2. Ramesh

    There are countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia where there are severe restrictions on citizens. People from developed countries do not like those restrictions but they follow it. Likewise, there is nothing wrong if an European country (France) makes it's own law considering the security aspect,. The citizens from others countries should accept those laws or stay in some other country.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  3. bob

    You have to respect something about the French. They will do it with Christians also. Actually they do it all the time.
    If you live in France you don't have to swallow the same Christian crap you swallow in the US.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • papalamepimelos

      Atheism should be made compulsory for everyone under the age of 18, to prevent indoctrination. Once they have reached the age of consent, they can themselves (not their parents!) make an informed decision about which, if any, religion they'd like to follow.

      The indoctrination of young minds with ancient religious cr@p is a crime against children, decency/common sense and, ultimately, a crima against mankind.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  4. dvlsmstr

    I would love to move to Europe but unfortunately it is now full of filthy sandies.. THE MUZZIES are freakin everywhere

    September 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • papalamepimelos

      If I were a muslim living in Europe, I'd be packing my bags and heading back for home. The atmosphere in Europe is drastically changing – the sentiments that have always been there are finally being expressed in public, and being listened too. If my senses don't deceive me, I expect pogroms to start in 15-20 years from now.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  5. JOHANO

    Good for you FRANCE! GO FRANCE!!! Think they'd be so polite in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or any other muslim country? HEEEEEEELL NO! If you're moving to France do as they do or go back to that sandy pit you came from. It's really easy. I hope something like this comes to the U.S. because our values are NOT their values. I refuse to vote or condone something so obviously NOT IN THE KORAN! Read your book muslims, Mohammad had no such rules, and treated women respectfully and as EQUALS. Those clothing customs are tribal at best and belong no place in a civilized world. Disagree? Try NOT wearing one in your own country then. Get over it. I like the new France.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • George

      All what you said is correct except that Mohamed did not respect women or treated them as equal, you should read about his life.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  6. Nikko

    Go to your stinken country and ware whatever stinken cloths you want! in 21st century society there is no place for cave man and woman!

    September 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • JOHANO

      Agreed! GO FRANCE!!!

      September 22, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  7. Bo

    @ I = rubber U= glue, stange SN, what is the message? I don't remember now who askes why the people b4 the flood lived longer lives, so In a round-about-way the way you said it works, just remember the apple is figurtive, because we don't have that fruit any longer, God took it away from man. Have you read the geneologies in Genesis? You will notice the longgevity drops very fast after the flood, so you have to ask WHY? Meat eating is one thing that changed. Sorry, gota go to prayer meeting, I'm late.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  8. RussH

    If you go to a country that wants women to hide their face okay, but when they come to a non-muslim country they need to take it off. I want to know who is behind that mask. Its just like press 1 for English and 2 for spanish. You come to this country learn english and get naturalized if you want to stay here. If not go back to your country

    September 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  9. Heather

    Try wearing a bikini on the streets of downtown Yemen. Not only will you be punished, but you will probably be ra ped multiple times before a religious court sends you to prison AND fines you. And the people in France of that culture promoting their need to wear the facial and head coverings are products of the same ridiculous culture.
    Yes, ridiculous.
    I said it, RIDICULOUS!
    I am a belligerent, ignorant American that stereotypes. But I did it with 100% accuracy. France has every right to protect and defend its culture, because the Middle East is every bit as severe as they are. Allez la France!

    September 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • JOHANO

      Agreed! VIVE LA FRANCE!!! Nous avons besoins de ces lois comme ça en france ici aux Etats-Unis. 😉

      September 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  10. Jim in Washington

    I am reminded of the cold war, when the communists made great claims about the superiority of their culture, but people always fled away from them and not to them. So many Muslims claim moral and religious superiority and put down Western culture, the the flow of people is from Muslim countries to West. I have traveled extensively in Muslim countries and I am very careful about respecting their norms. These women don't observe that courtesy. The come West for freedom and opportunity that Islam has not provided them at home and then lecture us about their rights. If Muslim society is so wonderful, why did they leave their homelands?

    September 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  11. Mahhn

    I see 4 sides to this: (relax, some is written in humor)
    1.If a man bomber disguised himself like...
    2.t's the culture, to them it's as normal as wiping our ass with toilet paper is to us. Not to say either is right or wrong, but it's the society normal.
    3.Maybe more women should wear them, all the ugly ones.
    4.hmm, maybe that's why they where them,,, who would know

    September 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  12. Mathew

    for those of you who say "go back to your own country" how about you get off STOLEN NATIVE lands and back to England? you never asked blacks to go back to Africa when they protested did you? You didnt obey the laws of native land to get your country today, you fought for it, and we are fighting for our laws too.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"you never asked blacks to go back to Africa when they protested did you? "

      Yes, I do remember such klan banners in old vintage pictures.

      September 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • John Briffaux

      My ancestors did not steal the land of the natives as they were the natives of this land. And my country, situated in the middle of Europe, home of the EC, has also adopted a law banning the burqa. You fight for your laws, yes, but in your country and we fight for the laws in ours. When we go visit or live in muslim countries we respect the laws and cultures of those countries and accept them regardless if we understand them or not. You are expected to do the same in our countries.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • papalamepimelos

      Errr.... I don't recall the French living on land stolen from blacks....

      Kudos to France for standing up for their own values. When you're a guest in someone else's house, respecting your host's house and houserules is the very least you can do. Those muslimas need a good lesson in common decency and courtesy.

      BTW, France is not the only country that has such laws. Many more European countries have similar laws, or are in the process of legislating it. Pity that, once more, we need laws to enforce something that should be done anyway by these muslim guests, out of courtesy and good manners.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  13. Mary

    Western women who are not Muslim are forced to cover up according to the local Islamic laws when visiting Islamic nations. Why is it alright to force women into your ways in your native country, but not alright for you to follow the local laws when you migrate to another nation? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. At least the French enacted the law for the security of the people, instead of merely for the subjugation of women as in "other" countries.

    September 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Mathew

      the hijab was created before the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) and was worn by Arab nobles as a sign of feminine nobility and greatness, it carried on after the Prophet died and continues as a sign of being noble and modest. furthermore basing your laws off of another nation's and people's laws in completely rediculous, as if to attack the fact that you must obey my laws in my house you create unfair laws in your home when i am guest.

      September 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • John Briffaux

      Mary you are so right. We, westerners and others around the world respect the ways and culture and laws when we are living in or visiting muslim countries. Besides the fact that one is to follow the laws of the country they reside in, the insecurity brought with the increase of terror attacks and the fact that more and more terrorists have used burquas to hide behind and the explosive they carry has pushed some countries to change their ways and add laws to curve some of the potential dangers.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      @Mathew – Covering your face is a "a sign of feminine nobility and greatness"? OMFG! You must be either a comedian or a schizophrenic.

      September 22, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • papalamepimelos

      Mathew: if you don't like the laws of France, you're free to move to another place where the laws are more to your liking. May I suggest Afghanistan? I hear the Taliban are very enlightened about enhancing 'the decency and morality of women', as you say, by forcing them to cover up their body.

      Mathew may be a muslim, but he seems to forget the tiny detail that France isn't a muslim country....

      September 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  14. Jack

    Nice to see those ladies in the Chador in the pictures having fun. Unfortunately, in the nether world, they will be one of the innumberable houris for the pious.

    September 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Merry L. Bindner

    Seriously?? I Would 'LIKE' to ((SEE)) the Person Who Is Talking to Me!!(Male or Female)--Now..To Those Who Don't Wear Their Pants Up,> I DO NOT LIKE to See Their BUTTtttsss..((**Faces..YES...BUTTs ..NO**)) <3 Love+Peace Always, Candymom+

    September 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  16. Parivel

    Hey Brave french,
    The law is very much needed for now. Need to eradicate this stupid ISLAM which is teaching mostly hate against humanity. But, certainly not the followers. I think, now france is the best nation & brave nation which takes right decision in the world. Parivel from INDIA

    September 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Maria

      such ignorance u people show ... Islam is a religion ... a guidance ...
      very "mature" of u to call it names like stupid ... i dont know or care how old you are ... cuz even lil children know not to comment on other religion ...
      u want to support the french government ... please go ahead ... but it can be done WITHOUT insulting or criticizing Islam

      September 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Les

    "Half Naked Women" Have a much harder time hiding explosives. We are only trying to protect ourselves from your "Religion of Peace". Oh and the law applies to everyoine, not just Muslim Women. I agree with Ruth. If you don't like it, adapt or go home.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Guest3

      The odds of a female with a face covering in France carrying a bomb are so miniscule it's ridiculous. If you really believe in beefing up security no matter how small the percentage of danger, let's just ban all suitcases on flights just to eliminate that one carrying a bomb.. oh wait, that would inconvenience you so we couldn't pass that law. But since you don't wear face coverings, it's okay then to bad those.

      September 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • papalamepimelos

      The blatant disrespect those muslims show for our Western enlightened values is both shocking and very telling. I was taught that, when you're in Rome, you do as the Romans do. That's the very least bit of respect you can show to people in your guest country.

      Common decency and behaving as good guests in someone else's house seem concepts that are very alien to these muslims. (apart from the fact that blowing yourself up in a crowd is even further from proper behaviour for a guest....)

      September 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  18. eddie2010

    "I am free to do whatever I want" No you are not. You are free to obey the laws of whichever country you are in.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • BG

      '.. obey the laws of whichever country you are in."

      Including muslim laws made by muslim legislators who were voted in by the growing masses of muslim immigrants and their multiples of muslim offspring.

      They're just taking a lesson from the hispanics. It's worked pretty well for them.

      The uncontrolled immigration MUST stop. Multiculturalism has failed. Pluralism is an excuse for apartheid.

      September 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  19. leehawks

    AMEN TO THAT!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  20. Ruth in Ohio

    If you want to live in the free world,then act like you do,if not go back to your own country and do what ever you have to do there.....why do you people keep wanting us to change to your ways? Do not like our laws GO HOME!

    September 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Guest

      emember, in the free world you are only free to do what we tell you to do. and giving up devotion to your religion is one thing we tell you that you must do.

      Simply amazing that you call us the "free world" and then say "if you don't like our laws, go home". I can't think of any defintion of "freedom" that encompasses such BS.

      September 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Just curious, but how does someone else wearing a burqa or niqab impact your freedom? Correct, it doesn't.

      September 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Kim

      I totally agree with your post. Love it or leave it. I am tired of people coming to another country and expect that country to change all their rules, etc to the ones they want. Go live where you can practice the things you want and shut up.

      September 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Jeff

      Nonimus, if we have to explain this to you, you need to take your head out of the sand. It is a SECURITY issue. People walking around with their faces covered cannot be identified......get it?

      September 22, 2011 at 7:56 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.