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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. sam

    To the individuals who feel that this law is against their rights to live freely, may I ask you this and only this:
    You complain that France is banning your right to wear a burqa etc. but why is it I could not go to Afghanistan or Iran without being forced to wear a hi jab against my will? I don't agree with it and I am a free individual but am forced to follow your laws?
    If you force other women to wear what they disagree with in your country then you can understand why I would be so confused that you are so upset another country is forcing you to do something when your very home country does it all the time!!!! Shame on you for being so ignorant to the very contradiction you are arguing with!

    September 23, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  2. Dr Fill

    Ok, let me ask you this question, why do you want to cover your faces? Is it because of your low self esteem? let me tell you this as a woman you got to be proud of the way you look, you don't need to have a fake boob job or nose job or plump your lips, but own yourself and be who you are.

    You are the lovely faces of the 21st century, unveil those masks, flash those smiles and be confident.

    Dr Fill

    Go France!!! bon travail,
    chemin à parcourir vont

    September 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  3. Pierre A. - Westmount, Qc

    All these muslim hypocrites turn to Human Rights laws when they think it will be to their advantage but, in reality, they are brainwashed to believe that the only law is the word of Allah ( whoever that may be). Hopefully, my country Canada will soon follow and ban these ridiculous costumes.'

    September 23, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  4. Pierre A. - Westmount, Qc

    They all look like carrion crows wearing those potato bags.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  5. Windrider30

    I have nothing against islam at all or any reglion what this boils down to really is that these people are covering their faces, in a public building like a bank I cant even wear a helmet for security reasons (that way if i'm a totatl jackweed and rob the joint they have pictures) its not about discrimnation or how ever you spell it this late at night, its a simple matter of common sense, its something people need a little more in this day and age

    September 23, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  6. Reality

    From p. 14:

    Saving this very sweaty lady and all of her Muslim sisters:

    For those who are reading challenged:

    SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:
    THERE NEVER WERE AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR LIKE 9/11.

    For those who are not reading challenged:

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
    alone."
    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    September 23, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • .........

      spam alert hit report abuse on all reality postings

      September 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Christine B.

    You have all said it! You are welcomed with open arms to your your new country which offers you social security benifits for your WHOLE family,religious freedom,security etc.You get it all, then you demand your own schools and more tolerance and human rights than the citizens of your host country. Why should you think yourselves so special to demand so much? Respect your chosen country, they didnt choose you, or go back.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  8. Time

    Lets see what would happen if I wore a ninja outfit to the bank! Stupid religious BS of any kind!

    September 23, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  9. Jess

    Those French women should worry a little less about women's rights in Europe and focus on helping women in countries where it is really needed....

    September 23, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Christine B.

      Jess, First get your own house in order before you think about your neighbors, lead by example.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  10. COCO

    During Ramanda if I was caught eating, i would be locked up in a Muslim country. In Saudi, I am not allowed to drive. These are the laws of the country and I adhere to them. Otherwise , I will go back to the western world or maybe, I should start a protest...ummmm!

    September 23, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  11. fheal

    Simply a taste of their own medicine. The Islamic empire is nothing more than a people who want and cry freedom in their adopted lands, until reaching a majority at the ballot box. And then they'll tell you how you must live....

    September 23, 2011 at 6:40 am |
  12. Bien

    Mine is a simple logic if you can not adopt the laws of your adopted country, go home to your mother country and there you can practice your religion. Please don't impose your religious belief to your adopted country such as France.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  13. 2Bob

    The burqa and associated cultural norms are part of the reason why inbreeding is such a huge problem in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia. How does a Muslim man actually meet a woman who is not his sister or relative?

    September 23, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  14. manofpeace

    Listen if you wanna cover your face pls go back to your country of pls be civilized for once

    September 23, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  15. heretic2go

    France is a secular nation. People with strong, fixed religious beliefs don't belong there. Integrate, adapt respect local customs or go back were you came from.

    September 23, 2011 at 4:08 am |
  16. GABRIEL

    Fukk the entire nation of France for trying to drag good and decent muslim women down to a western wh*re level.

    September 23, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Get Real

      Gabriel,

      Yes, such a shame that the French drag those poor women from their decent Islamic countries and force them to live in France.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:11 am |
    • gliese42

      Gabriel@ please leave France and give the Christians in the middle east and Pakistan to immigrate

      September 23, 2011 at 5:14 am |
  17. SilverTrail

    Muslims should grant religious freedom to all in their own land. Burqa-wearing is not a big deal to Muslims. Don't waste the time of the governments in the West.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  18. layla

    The Burka is offensive to the french people just like western dress and way of doing things is offensive to the muslim . Muslims have to learn that they cannot impose their beliefs on others, just like they cannot tolerate other's.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • Debbie

      Believe it or not, those burkas would be the same as wearing Halloween masks around and it is a security issue just like wearing bandanas across your face when entering a bank or any place really or wearing hoods in stores. It's the same as wearing a disguise and there are laws againist that. There is religious freedom, but there are limits to this right. We are not Muslim countries. Good luck France.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Debbie

      Believe it or not, those burkas would be the same as wearing Halloween costumes around and it is a security issue just like wearing bandanas across your face when entering a bank or any place really or wearing hoods in stores. It's the same as wearing a disguise and there are laws againist that. There is religious freedom, but there are limits to this right. One other really important thing is this, you can wear the Hijab or the chador instead which shows your face which is what is required in France. Good luck France.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  19. layla

    What makes this woman and all other muslims think that they have the freedom to do what they want in other people's countries and yet they impose restrictions on on how foreigners should behave in their countries. Why should non muslim women cover themselves in Saudia? Why shouldnt couples not kiss in public in Saudia, the emirate and other Arab/islamic countries? Follow the rules of your new home or go back home.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • missPWNAGE

      I believe these women believe in equality (somewhat) or else they wouldn't have moved to France in the first place. Theses women are the government of Saudi Arabia and other countries that restrict their people. They didn't choose those laws.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • missPWNAGE

      ...women aren't the... ***

      September 23, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • Ella

      Many muslims are born and raised in France, it's their country

      September 23, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Connie

      Ella...thank you for pointing that out...so, they should follow what their country's law says.

      September 23, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  20. bigdawg

    if you go to Saudi Arabia, they would force women to weak covers, and punish if they don't. but in countries where they'r not allowed to wear it, they disrespect the law

    September 23, 2011 at 1:45 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.