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. MT

    I don't believe it's correct to force anyone, muslim or christian to dress in a certain way. Bad France, what what about saudi arabia making every woman cover in the muslim tradition?

    September 22, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Nicolas

      Gotta love the French literature.

      Nul ne peut, dans l'espace public, porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage.
      No one, in public space, is to conceal his/HER face by any form of clothing.

      Period. Don't like it, go back home.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • David L.

      Nicholas, just because it's law, doesn't make it right. Furthermore, where is home? You assume to know where these people were born. Do these laws only apply expatiriots from muslim countries?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Nicolas

      As a reminder its forbidden for men to wear ski masks in public in Frnace, face-coverings prevent the clear identification of a person, which is both a security risk, and a social hindrance within a society which relies on facial recognition and expression in communication.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Nicolas

      As a reminder its forbidden for men to wear ski masks in public in France, face-coverings prevent the clear identification of a person, which is both a security risk, and a social hindrance within a society which relies on facial recognition and expression in communication.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  2. George

    Viva la France !! Just keep making them pay the fines and sooner or later they will adhere to the law. They want to make all of Europe a Muslim caliphate and they will keep pushing and pushing and if no one fights back then that is where you will be.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • aubrie

      you are absolutely correct, and that is their intent..... I would advocate for strengthening the law even further, and after 3 fines for the same offense, JAIL TIME.... WITHOUT a veil.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  3. Carmen

    When you live in a free society, you have the responsibility to show your face so that you can be held accountable for your actions like the rest of the society you choose to live in.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • David L.

      Did you just make that up?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • me

      Well said.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Carmen

      Yes David L yes I did! It was very easy too. See, there is a thing called 'logic'.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • David L.

      Others could argue that submission to random searches should be required in a "free" society too, because if you're carrying something you shouldn't be, you should be held accountable for that.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  4. Brian

    in Muslims counties, we would be jailed, lashed and tortured for not wearing one. SO it is odd, they claim right when their country grant you none. Muslin is an evil faith.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Kaffir

      It is not a 'faith' it is a cult for terrorists.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • David L.

      Nowhere in the article did it say these women were defending the laws of muslim nations around the world. I would argue, without any evidence of course, that most of these women would oppose any law forcing anyone to wear anything.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • scorpio

      do you want your country to become like those countries? Coz it is slowly becoming one with the bans like these. today they are banning muslims, tomorrow they will ban other citizens...its bout freedom of people and quality of life...don't like this ban simple coz its about muslims.

      The main question is should govt police dresses of its citizens now? and what will come next?

      no i am not a muslim and i hate the radicals more than you.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  5. Virginia Mom

    I hope France doesn't back down. France is not a Muslim country and if Muslims don't like their rules, they can go back to whatever Muslim country they came from.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • teamroper

      Mus lims don't have a country...they only have a stinking cess pool of a society that holds down women

      September 22, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  6. Teresa

    Bravo France. I think this law is terrific. When I was stationed in saudi arabia I was required to cover my hair and wear clothing from the wrist to the ankle and even where an abaya at times but they don't like it when the roles are reversed. I feel that when you live in other countries you must abide by their laws period or go home.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • David L.

      I don't understand the logic that states that since some muslim nations require women to cover certain parts of their body, that it's ok in a non-muslim nation to forbid women from covering certain parts of their body. I was to understand that the "free," western cultures were trying to set an example of freedom, not blindlly follow in the footsteps of oppressive, theocracies of the world.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  7. Jim Kreuger

    The ban on the veil is not freedom. Those who enforce the ban are uncivilized and enemies of the civilized people. The ban will be revoked, God Willing. I am fed up of this western civilization and society where it is OK to be half naked in the streets and not OK to cover the body. What kind of intelligence is that? I am interested to know more about Islam now.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • che

      You are a Mulsim already!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Nancy

      This is not about "covering the body" - it's about covering the face. There is no legitimate reason for anyone who is not up to no good to cover their face. The headscarf is not banned, only the face covering.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Tom

      Your and idiot. Why do they come here. Why do you stay?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • RonnieReagan

      How free are you if you've been indoctrinated, under threat of stoning, into covering every single inch of skin except for a few millimeters around your eye sockets simply for being a woman.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Jose

      When foreigners go to Arab countries they have to abide by their laws. Like no kissing in public. So when Arabs go to non-Arab countries they should abide by the laws of that country. OR STAY THE HELL HOME.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Jr

      If you are fed up, go away to a islamic country!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Kaffir

      It doesn't take much to become a muslim, just stop shaving anywhere and wrap a towel round your head. Start ignoring modernization and you'll be well on your way to becoming a muslim. Oh yea and lest I forget, start blaming Jews for all your problems.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • common sense

      Dummy, the French do not have a problem with your body being covered thry have a problem with YOUR FACE BEING COVERED. IT IS COVERING YOUR FACE THAT IS THE PROBLEM do not pretend it is not so.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • frank Concepcion

      Then it's time for you to leave, it's your choice to live wherever you want where you will be happy we're not stopping you!!!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Marc Boudreau

      dumb da dumb dumb dummbbb...its not the fact that they are covering their body, its the fact that their face is covered and it could be anyone...you cant just go into a store with a hood and ski mask can you?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  8. PhillyPhan

    If you do not agree with the laws of a country, leave it. Who knows what they are hiding under all those rags.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Whatevs

      I mean really!!! You are absolutely right!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Scott

      I wish America had balls like France.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • mp

      can not agree MORE with you, MOVE BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM AND YOU CAN WEAR BURQA 24/7.
      and about religious freedom, are you serious? have you looked at your own religious freedom in middle east?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • David L.

      Follow the laws of the country you're in, or go home. Or, the other option, is to civilly disobey, and fight for what you believe in. Isn't that the democratic way? The way you guys talk, it sounds like what you're saying, we make the law, you follow the law, and you have no right to voice an opinion or dissent. Sounds like you guys would be more at home in Saudi Arabia then these women.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • ODAMN

      so if a guy wore a football helmet and a squba suit around he wouldnt get in trouble right..........lol

      September 22, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  9. che

    too little too late.
    This continent has already been sinking, and for many other reasons.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  10. LaLa

    100% agree with France..USA should ahve doen the same thing........if you cannot follow the laws, don't cross the borders!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • David L.

      Of course you should follow the laws, or at least pay the price when you break them. But that's not to say the laws are right.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  11. guest

    The Muslims have brought this upon themselves.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  12. Western woman

    As a Western woman – I have no choice but to wear long clothes and cover my head if I were to visit a muslim country.
    It is understood – and I know there are consequences if I didn't follow local custom. I could be stoned to death
    How is this any different?
    Muslim women must cover up so that they don't tempt Muslim men. Women are being punished for the men's urges and therefore forced to cover up.
    I know there are women who do believe that they must be modest and have accepted this dress code, but again, it is so that men are not tempted – not in deference to their god.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  13. Kaffir

    Why did allah bother to give women faces and bodies when a pair of eye and a va gina would have been enough?

    September 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  14. Isoloda

    Bravo France! US should follow!
    These are abused and oppressed women!
    If the women cover up the men should do it too!!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  15. upsetintx

    She wants to walk freely thru the streets??? She can always go back to where she came from. Oh sorry that place didn't let her do anything freely because she was a women. Stop complaining lady, when your at your house you can wrap yourself up as a mummy if you want. The law in France is that you can't cover your face out in public. Live with it or find some other place that will let you.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Soy Milk

      That's right!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  16. Sagebrush Shorty

    Islam is a cult.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • FifthApe

      So is Christianity.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • teamroper

      Islam is a cult...and a dangerous one

      September 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Kaffir

      #1 cult for terrorism.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • FifthApe

      teamroper – All religions are cults.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Soy Milk

      Damn straight.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  17. Sagebrush Shorty

    If God created Man (and Woman) then why does Islam refuse us the privilege of viewing his handiwork?

    September 22, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Kaffir


      September 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • LawAndRder

      You might not want to !

      September 22, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  18. Jeff

    An admirable law in France and finally a country putting its foot down despite being called all sorts of names. I guess if some Frenchies came up with a religion that dictates they wear no clothing at all – The Adam and Eve religion, people would be expected to just go with it. Besides the stupid idea of oppressing women by making them wear a body cloak, is the fact that Muslim men can brainwash women into thinking they will not go to heaven if some stranger sees their face. JUST CRAZY!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  19. bab

    france court did good job ,i am even muslim but why we should cover our face ,may be this woman and some other are sick
    and mentally ill ,if you love borqua why you went to france ,getback to yemen or afghanisstan and live there ,,many of your brothers are living there and you can enjoy among them ,,,

    September 22, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Aurangzeb

      at u r enjoying without cover ur face or u hv removed all from top till bottom

      September 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  20. dms

    I agree with the French law. Here in America I am not allowed to cover my face with sunglasses, or wear a ball cap or even wear a hoodie over my head when I go to a Bank teller, but it is allowed for a Muslim women to wear an outdated form or repression to cover her face except for her eyes. I say NO, you want to live in another country then follow their laws. I f not then stay in what ever Muslim Country you are from.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • LaLa

      100% agree...USA should listen to what the citizens are saying about this and follw the same example! Should have been law here YEARS ago!..... If you can't follow the laws, don't cross the borders.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:25 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.