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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. vpratt

    My belief is that if you move to a country, conform to ITS laws. If you don't like them, move back to the country to which you came from. The thing I don't understand is that when people move to our countries and try to make OUR laws change to the way they lived in their country( if it was so good, why are you here?)! They should weigh out the chance to have freedom and a better quality of life, rather then have OUR countries throw out the red carpet and treat them better than we get treated! I am sure if the shoe was on the other foot, there wouldn't be special treatment for us in their country....

    September 22, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Sean

      so when Europeans came to America they converted to Native American customs and culture?.......really?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  2. liz fry

    Wake up ladies hiding behind face masks is not modest its just plain insulting.
    live in the west, then live like us dont try & force your ideals on us.If we are offensive to you why come to western countries stay home girls.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • got chicken france

      ok.. can you explain to me what they are forcing on you?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  3. keith

    Its time to stop these women wanting to look like packman. get rid of the stupid looking head piece.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • got chicken france

      sounds like a personal problem

      September 22, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  4. Islamic Pork

    islam is a backwards, degenerate cult of 14th century idiots. Anyone who subscribes to its idiocy is beyond hope.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • got chicken france

      backwards.. yet all of the west is starting convert.. keep talking while more and more keep leaving christianity and going to Islam.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Peter

      There are not more joining Islam, that is a false. There are many leaving religion in general and numbers are increasing in Islam in America because there are more immigrating here yearly and having children and they are becoming a larger part of our total population. Its BS to say that people are leaving Christianity to join Islam, simply isnt true.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • got chicken france

      denial... keep denying to please yourself, fact is a lot of christians are.. just keep denying i could care less.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Joan

      Can't want to join a religion where I get acid thrown in my face for not wearing a mask.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  5. Peter

    The face being covered is wrong for so many reasons, This is the law, follow it and be reasonable. the France government has been more then reasonable only banning having the face covered which is sensible, reasonable and should be applied to every countries laws.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  6. jmz

    wanna wear that stuff – move to anouther country (ie Afghanistan)

    September 22, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  7. Chris Honry

    American politicians always pander to the loudmouth cry babies that get on the news with their whining. There will NOT be a ban on these disguises here in America until someone wearing one either robs and kills someone or does a suicide bombing. At which point it will be too late for the victims and their families. That is US politics, reactionary not proactive. US officials should have their lives on the line like in China where they are executed or jailed for failure or corruption.

    And for you racist Latinos with a problem of my calling the USA "America": It's because there's no other country in "The Americas" with "America" in the name.

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

      you pretty much hit everything, a little racial profiling, some nice republican rhetoric and then topped it off with some awesome racism to boot. Really, bravo.

      First, even if a bank is robbed or a suicide bomber wears a burqa, the US is STILL not going to ban it, that is against the 1st amendment and we'd never ever pass it, sorry charlie.

      Secondly, China is the biggest human rights violators in the world, you want to be like china? are you crazy?

      Lastly, south americans don't like it when Americans refer to the US as just America because there are two continents that have the word america in it. If you asked a person where are you from? and they said Europe, does that answer the question? I mean, there isn't anywhere else that has Europe in its name, so that should be enough right?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • got chicken france

      yea it will never come to the US.. not including Muslims, there are a lot of pro right and pro choice groups right there alongside Muslims

      September 22, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Ralph Teixeira

      Chris, you are contradicting yourself, you say "in the Americas" implying that there are several Americas. At any rate, America is the name of the CONTINENT, Geography 101. Even the name United States of North America is wrong, there is another United States in North America, guess which? Americo Vespucci gave the newly discovered land his name, robbing Columbus of using his own, being the official discoverer, but that's history. ANYONE who is born in the continent, regardless of the country, is an AMERICAN, me included. To be American is not a nationality, it's saying that you were born in the American CONTINENT, thus no country in it can take for itself that name, which is shared by all the countries, from Canada to Chile. So, if your country can not be called United States nor America, what are you going to call it? All other countries have their proper names, except yours. This is information, not confrontation, hoping that you people decide on a name that truly represents what you are, instead of using names that are either wrong or are arrogant, ignoring reality.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  8. Abraxas

    Burkas have already been used as disguises during robberies here in the US, Australia, and Europe. If they don't like it, they can go to some country with Sharia law.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  9. Uglytruth

    Bravo France!!!!

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

      Never guessed France would be the Country with balls, while Amercia shows more and more weakens by the minute

      September 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  10. Cecilia

    The French people have decided that it is a security problem for a large portion of their population to walk the streets wearing clothing that makes them impossible to identify. I understand how this could be a problem in today's world. If a non muslim French man or woman walking around with their faces completely covered with a mask etc... is also fined then the law is at least being applied fairly. We will see. In the mean time, it is good that the French people discuss this issue without fear of harrassment. They rest of the world will gain from this discussion.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  11. Chris

    What about our human rights as FRANCE citizens. Our right to feel safe.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • got chicken france

      so france is scared of not even 1% of these Muslim women who cover... shocker

      September 22, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Chris

      YEP. FRANCE citizens are dead scared when a person covered from head to toe sits next to them and their child on a park bench. We didn't create this fear – YOU DID.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • got chicken france

      ooh labeling now. are you going to cry now. scared of covered women.. no wonder they call frenchy chickens

      September 22, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • nemo12

      It's FRENCH citizens you idiot

      September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Chris

      Sorry – didn't mean to make you guys angry. I guess my comments really struck a nerve. Mission complete.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • got chicken france

      I'm just waiting for the frenchy white flag to come up on this law.. when a new president revokes it. LoL

      September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  12. cpc65

    And here come the riots again.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  13. arim

    this world is not fair. its unfortunate that the world is treating muslims this way. i cant imagine that today even gays and lesbians that both the bible and the qur'an speak against are enjoying more recognition than muslims. but the fact still remains that islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • :)

      pretty much.. nor any army or imperialist ways forcing anyone to convert either. France has finally realized that there culture is falling and there trying anything to stop it.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • RealTSuks

      Naziism was also the fastest growing ideology in the 30s

      September 22, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • got chicken france

      through brute force idiot.. learn to read

      September 22, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Martin

      Just what do you think would happen to gays and lesbians if they "practiced" what makes them different in public? France is a very liberal , ethical, and moral country. Our freedoms were in large part inspired by French philosophy. Many Muslim women i France are thrilled by the ban because they can shed the dehumanizing burqa.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • got chicken france

      @martin

      /sigh no not really..

      September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  14. more wasted police work

    so now instead of traffic traps and writing tickets for kids skateboarding... they now are clothing enforcers. I guess the way you look is fair more important then having murderers and rapists out in about... ya.. real good one France.. spending all the time passing a bigot law and how many have you written... 2

    September 22, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  15. Mr Johnson

    Women cannot go into those cave dwelling countries and wear anythign fro the West - they have rules. So does the rest of the world. COme to the West and then youmust follow our rules. Unvcover the face, speak English and everyone will get along fine!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Brovka

      Last time I checked they speak French over there

      September 22, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • mike.savick

      The French speak French fool!

      September 22, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • John B

      The French hate it when Americans speak English while visiting their country. I can only imagine how much they would hate a burqa clad woman speaking English.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • nemo12

      Amen

      September 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  16. ReasonOverFaith

    Only criminals cover their face.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • /sigh

      so on halloween is everyone a criminal ??

      September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • John B

      This is the reason that I will never trust a clown.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  17. Islamic Pork

    If you don't like the law then get the fvck out!!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  18. MikeB

    This is another case of 'Migration' instead of 'Immigration'.
    It is even admitted that the arrest was provoked to impose upon or displace the native culture.
    The tactic is not new for how Islam is spread; displacement of native culture by overwhelming communities, exemption from local laws, and intimidation to suppress or expel the native culture. What's next is increased intimidation of the native culture through violence and even murder. Examples are Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, etc ...

    September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  19. Mj

    oops, I wanted to say helmet

    September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  20. grandmared

    As long as there are crazy Muslim suicide bombers and Muslim men willing to wear the burga to hide their weapons I feel it becomes a question of security. I think the right of the rest of us to be safer overrides the Mulim womens' right to wear a tent and hood.in public places.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • RealTSuks

      well said. I wish the US would turn to France for inspiration (this time). We need the same laws here.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • got chicken france

      the day america looks for inspiration from france.. nice try frenchy

      September 22, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Martin

      Actually much in America is inspired by France. French influence is evident in our food, dress, sense of style generally, and in our government and values.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:02 am |
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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.