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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. doodler

    Honestly, these people should be sent back home. Who do they think they are, testing the laws of France or the US or anywhere else? GO BACK HOME NINJAS!!! and leave us the hell alone.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • svscnn

      Run for your lives! The ninjas are coming!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  2. Debb

    well, good for her... and good luck... I'm fighting to speak English in Quebec... whoop de doo... we're all losing our rights.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  3. doodler

    They are allowed to ban us from the way we like to dress in SAUDI ARABIA AND ALL OF THEIR ISLAMIC COUNTRIES.... now, when France does it.... ITS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE? Get the F*&^*& out of our countries.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  4. Al, Enfield CT

    You can't hide a bomb in a bikini!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • got chicken france

      well actually you can.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • svscnn

      Are you sure? 'Cause I saw several bombs in bikini's at Clearwater beach just this weekend.

      ...although, admittedly, they weren't exactly "hidden."

      battum bum.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  5. American Pie X

    all who oppose the burqa should be deported from ANY freedom loving country. Freedom includes freedom of religion, once you oppose freedom of religion in any way you become a non-freedom loving country. Security was never discussed as the reason to limit freedoms, our founding fathers who started this who freedom business never said its ok for big government to infract on our freedoms to make use secure.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  6. guest

    I should have added to my post, that if they commit one of those so called "honor" murders, sentrnce the whole family to deportation and execute all those involved in the killing. If a young girl who is is an intended victum seeks protection from the governmet let her get it.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  7. W.G.

    Once again , I salute France for sticking to it´s guns . It´s idiotic and dangerous not to accept the fact it´s proven that
    muslim terrorists use the burka to attempt to bypass security checkpoints . These women say they are fighting for their
    rights but they are also trying to soften or do away with this law to help islamic terrorists to get into the country .
    All muslims have a "Hidden Agenda" and are supportive of the terrorists . Honestly when have you ever seen muslims
    marching and carrying signs in protest of islamic terrorism ? I have however seen them dancing in the streets on
    9/11 and the day of The London Bombings "

    September 22, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • W.G.

      I also forgot to mention I´m European and my neighbors are also becomming aware of the "Muslim Hidden Agenda".

      September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Eugene

      Hi W.G, check out http://www.kamranpasha.com/blog/?p=68. I just did a quick Google search.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  8. rollseyes

    really? people aren't allowed to walk into stores train stations and airports with thier faces covered? The horror.
    Lets see, what would happen if someone walked into an American minimart with a Halloween mask on? In all likelihood the police would be called because that person would probably be a criminal.
    No one is stopping these women from praying or going out in public. France's law is trying to keep the public safe that's all.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  9. Daniel

    Brian is correct here. We have other faiths, who claims rights and have no respect for others. A muslin would gladly attach a bomb to his son to a kid. That is not a western belief, life is precious.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • American Pie X

      you are ignorant, thats just like saying all white americans are rednecks and bump ugiles with their sisters, or the french are sissies after WWII.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Rafael

      You're right. A Western belief would be something like... blowing up an abortion clinic with mothers inside because a higher power told some person to do so. Or, better yet, to drown her own children in a lake due to a message from a higher power! Even better: shooting one's own family in the head, and then, yourself. Something about an economy.

      Stop living inside a box. If you open this mystical item we refer to as a "history book", you'll see that "Western" culture is not the United States alone, and we have done our share of cruelty under the flag of religion as well.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  10. Altee11

    The people who call themselves Taliban aren't even Islamic, they are criminals who hide behind the biggest religion in their region of the world, so who are they to dictate that this is appropriate attire for all women? The niqab seems too much like a burqa as well.
    If any other leadership backs burqas and niqabs, their support is wrongheaded and will ultimately lead to oppression of everyone because of the strong sign these clothes send that one should stay in his or her place and be quiet.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  11. Eugene

    I think that if you don't like veils – tough.. If the majority can impose their cultural preferences on others without a good enough reason, our freedom is stuffed. It's no excuse that other countries do this – do you really want to take them as our role-models??

    September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  12. ANN

    If they like middle east customs so much....send these idiots back to the middle east. done deal.....i'm so sick of these people...GET OUT!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Cecil

      If these people want to live just like they do in the middle east, then go live in the middle east. I am sick of people expecting the majority to change, to accomadate them.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • American Pie X

      get your facts straight, this isn't a mideast custom its a religious act. are you oppose to religious freedom? are you oppose to freedom?
      it sounds like your opposed to educating yourself and speaking with some sense.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Annoyed

      Agreed... When western woman go to Saudi Arabia, they have to cover up because of that countries LAW... So when muslim woman are in a western country, they too need to follow that countries LAW!!!!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • white

      Ann, dear this isn't cultural it is religious.Unless you have one of your religious freedoms taken away from you,you shoulodn't comment.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  13. svscnn

    It $ucks that the elegance & mystique of the veil have been hijacked by extremism to the point that anyone should feel the need to ban it.

    I get it, but I still think the world is becoming culturally poorer for it.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  14. guest

    The Muslims claim that only a small percent are radical terrorists, but I don't see them doing much to oppose them. If it were up to me if they were to wear a burqa the penality would be to deport them at their own expense, no ifs, buts or ands and take their families with them.

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

      Sorry, but I just found it amusing that you wrote "no and's," then immediately followed that with an "and."

      September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • American Pie X

      hey genius i dont see you going out to fight every neo nazi or KKK member, so why is it that Muslims have to be responsible for a portion of them thats less that .01 percent?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  15. Leslie Anne

    France has evry right to ban what they feel is necessary to protect the citizens and visitors. If these people object, then they need to be sent back to their country of origin. The US needs to start putting their foot down as well and whoever does not agree, needs to get the F out!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Triid It

      Superbly put

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

      even non- muslim french citizens are against the ban... they cover there face to prove a point of how idiotic this is.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Rafael

      This isn't Fox news, please, use common sense before your own blatant ignorance gets the best of you.

      You can't "SHIP" someone "Back to their country" for religious purposes. Are you a Christian? Should we ship you to the middle-east because we have separation of church and state? Or do you think that Jesus was born in Texas or something?

      I happen to respect France's point in banning the Burqa. Let them decide in their court what should be done. Don't soil America any further with your bigoted comments though. Some of us (like myself) are educated.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  16. CNNuthin

    I know I am going to get a lot of negative comment on this one but this law is going too far for France. We cannot tell someone they cannot practice a part of their religion. You may see this as telling someone they cannot wear a hat but to them this is a symbol of purity and protection and, if removed, can cause others in their religion to act harshly towards them. This has caused more trouble in the long run every time it has happened. Read the Bible, the Qur'an, Tanakh, ect and you will see countless ways that every religion feels oppressed and targeted and see how they have reacted. With the increasing tension in the world, with the riots spreading across countries, with our own natural problems we are facing, this is just asking for trouble and draw unneeded attention to France. Someone will threaten retaliation, tourism will go down and France will have their fine of 120 Euros saved up for those cold days ahead.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Just Say No (to Socialism)

      A country has a right to protect its citizens–all of them, not just a single faction. I understand their religious beliefs, but they also need to comply with the law. France did not ban head scarfs–it banned face coverings. You're saying that everyone has a right to practice their religion fully, without censure. Okay, so my religion says that I don't wear ANY clothes. I guarantee I get arrested the first time I go out–not because of my religious belief, but because I broke laws against indecency. This law does not only apply to Muslim women, it applies to everyone. No one is permitted to cover their face in public.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Quincey9

      Very well said. They run the risk of creating a complete reverse of the desired effect.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • chucklesome

      Well, I think this is the problem with the world today..Everyone is scared to pass legitimate laws for fear of retaliation and offending a group of people..and it seems that the Muslims are the ones everyone is afraid to offend, because when they get offended, they blow up something/themselves, start a revolution, or push back until they get exactly what they want. If you live in the middle east (which I'm from), then you HAVE to respect the muslin religion traditions, watch what you wear, have police protection in church (in countries where they allow churches to exist) and you do not dare say a word or ask for your basic rights or else you will suffer the consequences. Why can't other countries have the same right, especially since the burqa is NOT a requirement by the Islamic religion, it's a choice and if you chose to wear it in a country that won't allow it, then simply go to a country that does!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  17. duh

    I should start walking around in my underwear and call it part of my religion. Wonder if the law would side with me. This is absurd! If these women want to wear the burqa then by all means go ahead, just first get on a plane and fly to Afganistan and live the whole experience.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Steve

      That might be considered indecent exposure. But if it weren't indecent exposure, then sure, you have the freedom to do that and call it your religion. That's what's so great about living in a free country. France, apparently, disagrees.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • parvo

      "But if it weren't indecent exposure..."

      Irrelevant. It IS indecent exposure.

      The concept of indecent exposure exists in the US. You'll get arrested if you walk around naked in public. Therefore it's clear that the US *already* puts restrictions on what you can/can't/must wear. So not nearly as "free" as you think.

      If I lived in Crazistan, where it was part of the native religion to go naked 24/7, would you complain if I was then arrested in the US for parading around city streets, balls-out? Or would you get all up in arms, defending my right to religious freedom?

      No, of course you bloody wouldn't.

      You'd tell me to put some damn clothes on and respect the law of the land I was visiting. Just as female visitors to parts of the Muslim world are expected, under threat of arrest/imprisonment/worse, to adhere to local customs by covering their heads/bodies/faces.

      Long story short:

      If the concept of "indecent exposure" (i.e. illegally uncovering) not only exists but is perfectly well accepted in the Western world, there's no reason why a concept of "indecent INexposure" (i.e. illegally covering) shouldn't also exist and be accepted. Any perceived difference between the two is purely semantic - there is no difference in principal.

      The only reason France is taking flak for this, while we all accept that strict Muslim countries can demand face-coverings for all women, is that this is a NEW law affecting existing French residents and not a tradition steeped in history as it is in the Muslim world. If France had a law dating back to 900 A.D. banning face coverings, there would never be all this fuss in the first place.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  18. GG12

    http://lds.org/study/prophets-speak-today/unto-all-the-world/people-of-faith-should-defend-freedom-of-religion-elder-oaks-says?lang=eng

    September 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  19. Altee11

    These are not muslim. These are outfits worn by people from different countries. We have to ask ourselves who supports these outfits. The people who call themselves Taliban aren't even Islamic, so who are they to dictate that this is appropriate attire for all women? The niqab seems too much like a burqa as well.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Trobe

      There are No True Scotsmen. Look it up.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  20. joe

    uhhh yes we tell mormons they can't practice polygamy. in theory a secular government doesn't have opinions. they have laws.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:52 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.