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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. White Flag

    I'm just going to sit and wait.. after all the bigotry and racist labeling about the law.. I'm just waiting for a new president to put up the white flag, surrender the law and revoke it..

    people claim to be in the 21st century yet there backwards by forcing people how to dress with their personal backward laws. Come on its 2011 and were forcing people how to dress.. really.. i understand security issues with certain areas like banks and govt. buildings..

    September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Pro God & Anti Religion

      This is not OUR law you idiot. It is not racist or bigoted to ask immigrants to join your culture and stop changing it. It is more far more bigoted racist to insist that the french must surrender their cultural autonomy to immigrants who do REFUSE to respect the way of their new country. If they don;t like it, they are free to return to wherever they came from or anywhere else for that matter. I applaud the french LOUDLY.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • White Flag

      again.. i keep hearing this with everyone. explain to me what is being forced on you..

      September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • White Flag

      its 2011... every culture is everywhere now.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Joan

      We are being forced into a state of fear. Man, you are ignorant!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • White Flag

      state of fear?? lol WoW! ok palin go back to the kitchen

      September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  2. Melissa

    Good for the French court.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  3. JeanV

    Just because some women participate in their own oppression and exploitation, that doesn't make it OK.

    When men from Muslim countries interpret the scriptures on "modest" dressing the same for themselves as they do for women, then we'll have something to talk about. As long as they are running around in soccer shorts, sport shoes, tee shirts or no shirts, heads bare, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, playing sports in public spaces, etc. then they are hypocrites and their women-folk need SOMEONE to say, "No. Enough. Not here."

    Bravo France for taking a stand!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Pro God & Anti Religion

      It is not an issue of women's rights, it is an issue of immigrant cultures RESPECTING the ways of their new homes. I LOVE immigrants and the contributions and vitality they bring to an adopted culture...but not when they refuse to speak the language or observe the common culture of the land they are living in.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • white

      Jeanv,you are very ignorant,you cant compare men to women in the way they dress.Muslim women enjoy their bodies and wear whatever they wish to.they just don't do it in the streets because they are like a diamond,no one can touch or look at them.just like when you go to a diamond store the jewels are behind a screen,no one can touch them.men have more harsher tasks at work then Muslim women so their dress code will definitly differ.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  4. lolita

    good, thats all I i have to say about that

    September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  5. ?

    Burqa's are stupid.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • American Play Boy

      PLAY BOY AND PENTHOUSE ARE COOL, HOW ABOUT EROTICA?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Christo

      hmm, Yes. Good ban.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  6. BigRed

    Clothing is a form of self expression. It should not be the states role to place laws in effect that govern clothing choices. If the bans which France has put in place were for public safety then the laws would be just. As it stands now, France has allowed an unjust law to be enacted. It is sad that France is no longer a nation where Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity is seriously taken to heart.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • JeanV

      Women are people, too. We don't belong in religious BAGS, we belong in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoying the wind in our hair, playing sports, riding bikes, doing everything men do without having to wrap ourselves like mummies in black fabric.

      The burka and the niqab are SICK, oppressive and grotesque misinterpretations of the term "modesty". They need to be banned to prevent them from being forced down on the next generation.

      Just say NO to the oppression of women by pseudo-religious nut-jobs.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Sean

      This is a joke right?
      Since when "Clothing is a form of self expression" in Islam?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • white

      jeanv,again you repeat yourself saying "women should enjoy their hair and sunshine,well Muslim women have their different ways of getting all that.They enjoy everything you enjoy,so dont worry about other women for being liberated

      September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • David L.

      Sean, he's not saying that clothes are a form of self-expression in Islam, he's saying they are a form of self-expression, period. If you don't see how clothing is a form of expression, then I can't help you. But think about the variations of clothes that people wear across races, religions, social classes, and even moods and philosophies. Laws like this limit a person't ability to express themselves in the way that they see fit.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  7. Sean

    A nudist is walking into a down-town office... you get the idea. He/she is free to wear (or not) anything desires, but there is a society that doesn't accept certain dress codes and the minority has to respect it. Mind you that this minority is working real hard on becoming the majority, and doesn't hide it. And when it is the majority, how tolerant it is to a different outfit (in the countries this same minority arrived from)? Always look at the things from different perspective. Yes it's democracy, but democracy has to watch out for trickery.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • MediciSpikes

      If nudist robs me I can see (perhaps too much) who did it. That's the difference.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • MJS

      You bring up an excellent point! If I were to be a nudist then I'm expected to be dressed outside of the nudist colony and if I'm in the colony then I can choose to wear nothing. It's the same thing. If you want to wear a burqa go back to your country and if you don't want to go to France!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  8. Jeff

    Should it be legal for people to walk around in public with ski masks on???

    September 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • David L.

      Of course it should be legal, and it is in America. Why do people think it's ok to govern what people wear?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Neel

      Yes It should be legal to wear ski masks around. If not, cops are going to be busy on Halloween giving tickets to Kids dressed up as Jason.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • demetri

      It's not the same and you know it.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • White Flag

      kids actually do now with there fully zipped up hoodies.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  9. Duh.

    These women are in court fighting the tickets not because they like wearing those stupid burqus it's a scapegoat so their husbands don't kill them when they can't/don't wear it anymore. "Honey, I tried..."

    September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Dan

      Do you know what scapegoat means?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • David L.

      Scapegoat? How is tat a scapegoat?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  10. me

    You people are SICK for agrreing with this crazy law. The French gov't is being intolerant of a people's right to freedom of expressio. This is NOT about protecting Muslim women, this is about imposing your beliefs on on Muslims. I don't think it's right that all these crazy Christians show off their idiotic crosses in my face, but I understand that it is their right. France has made humanity take a step backwards.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Tom

      You're an idiot. Clearly you don't have an understanding of security and ability to identify people you moron. Oh an by the way this ban is only for public places.

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

      What would happen to a women if she walked in a bikini on the streets of Saudi Arabia. ?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  11. guest

    @scorpio You can go back to your home land too, you are not needed here!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Lord Mercy

      That means your Great Grand Parents were in US illegely and forced Indians to leave their homes. In Couple of Decade France may become the ISalmaic Republic of France along with Islamic Republ;ic of Belgium and England. remember demographics changes.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  12. godlaughs

    Wearning a burqa and that silly hat (for men, which also needs to be banned) along with that lousy pyjamas they wear should be banned. this outfit is religious, soft form of terrorism and candid. one can carry anything under burqa (ofcouse it is possible even under normal clothes)....but burqa means ak47 and that silly hat mean hand granade...as these people have citizenship of that country unfortunately they cannot be deported or can be done anything.....best thing is serve them as good to allah......

    September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • American Play Boy

      I guess you wear bikini and visit PLAY BOY site often

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

      Have you ever held a grenade? There's no way you'd keep that on your head in a hat. Also, which hats are you banning? All of them?

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

      By your argument all religious clothing should be banned including white Priest collars, Robes, Yarmulka, and the like.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • David L.

      Do you know how much illegal, and dangerous contraband you can keep in a backpack? Should we ban those two? Or perhaps we should allow the police to search anyone they want, for whatever reason. You know, for security. The reason you like this law is because it primarily targets Muslims.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Howard

      When they were passing out brains, you thought they said "trains," and said you'd catch the last one. Guess what? You missed it!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  13. Ally

    As Muslim women myself, I understand how this woman is feeling. However, I must agree with the many commentators who say she should just leave if the country's law doesn't coincide with our religious practices.

    Unfortunately, since 9/11, the millions of law-abiding Muslims living in America are being penalized for the alleged actions of a few. Innocent or guilty, we are ALL labeled as terrorists. And the way I see it, things will never be the same for us as it was prior to 9/11.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Elizabeth

      Alleged actions of a few? Alleged? Are you kidding me? What kind of fantasy, Islamic world do you live in? Bottomline, France has passed a law that needs to be abided by! You people think you are above the law, and you do it on the coattails of Islamic religious freedom? Scary stuff in my opinion! I'm scared of you folks!

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

      Future generations always have the opportunity to forget hostilities of the past. Hope exists only as long as you allow it to.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • David L.

      Elizabeth, yes, everyone should be following the law. Or the other option is to civilly dissent, and pay the price. Just because it's law doesn't make it right.

      And your fear of Muslims is very apparent.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Howard

      Ally, I live in a high-rise building with a number of Islamic neighbors, some of whom wear chadors. No one is accusing them of being terrorists. Yes, there are bigots in America, but you don't have to be a Muslim to feel their wrath, and as an educated person I suspect you knew that even before you came to America. But don't let the hatreds of a relative few color your perception of all non-Muslim Americans. If you do, then you're no better than those other bigots.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Dan

      Elizabeth – yes, a few. You realize there are a billion Muslims, right? If they all were of the Al Qaeda mindset, the West would have sadly fallen long ago. For you to generalize, while ignoring the McVeighs of the world is unfortunate.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Ally

      @Elizabeth: I guess you never heard of 9/11 truthers or watched 911- Loose change. You would expect that these organizations/movies would be created by Muslims in order to defend their names. However, they were created by none other than Americans themselves–Americans who aren't brainwashed by the media.

      As far as the rest of your comments goes: Thank you! You just proved my point.

      @Seth: I'll keep that in mind.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  14. Debb

    Send them to Canada... won't be long before they trade burqas for parkas.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Edward

      Canada also has "resonable accommodation". Driving in a burka is unreasonable. Demanding your own swimming times at the public swimming pool is unreasonable. Government services are refused to anyone with their face covered etc.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  15. coder

    religion is the single biggest mistake man has ever created

    September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Debb

      agreed

      September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  16. Kiljoy616

    Women can be so stupid, considering that they are in a free country they still decide to be slaves.

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

      Nowhere in the Koran does it even tell women or even SUGGEST that they wear these stupid things.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  17. Missa

    If you don't like the laws – don't live there.
    What kind of security can you have against crime if everyone is running around with their faces covered???

    September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Lord Mercy

      In Saudia or in Iran all the women wear these clothes and crime ration is almost zero. Thats roots who puts you in crime not the dressing.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  18. Debb

    Hey Americans,... you should pay more attention to what's happening north of the border...

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

      They're afraid of the dark?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  19. But..

    I too am all for freedom of speech etc, but when my 7 year old (we live in Canada) sees someone with a burqa she is scared of them. This scares her to see someone covered from head to toe. She asked me once "Did that person do something wrong?" It's not part of North American culture to cover up. IF you feel a need to do so, please go back to your home country and feel free to roam around like that where it's acceptable. It's scares my kids and frankly I have to ask myself too...WHO Is under there? Once heard a father who moved here from Iran say "My son has a problem with the way the women dress in Toronto, he feels they should all be covered". They had just moved to Canada for 4 months and the boy had issues with the way women dressed here. Once again, my reply was "well I believe you should go back cause I don't need YOUR son to tell my daughters how to dress". He did not appreciate my comment and frankly, he never stood a chance with that debate. You wanna wear the burqa...then honey, GO HOME! VIVE LA FRANCE!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Kiljoy616

      Your little girl should be scared considering what the bur qua stand for stands for which is oppression.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Lord Mercy

      Previous culture of North AMerica is to Paint body and wear a feather on the head. Please follow that culture.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • demetri

      Your argument is completely flawed

      September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Trina

      I was recently at a children's museum with my kids. There was a Muslim family there and the woman was wearing the Niqab (only her eyes exposed). My understanding is that the reason for wearing it is to not stand out. SHE STOOD OUT! It was difficult not to stare, because she was so noticable. It just makes you wonder about the person under there.
      I also thought that it was a shame that she was not able to interact with her kids the way westerners do. By that I mean with facial expressions. When my kids "check" to see where I am, I smile and wave. She can't connect with them with a smile. I thought that was sad for both her and her kids. I also use facial expresions to help my kids know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. She can't connect with her kids that way, at least in public.
      I also believe that we watch each other's faces when we communicate. That is one reason that communication is better face-to-face rather than by phone. Women in the Burqa lose that level of communication...again, in public.
      Regardless of Religous Freedom or Oppression of Women, I don't think that the clothes accomplish the intent of the Koran, at least in the Western World. They DRAW ATTENTION to the wearer. They say "Hey, look at me! I am different! Think about me! Wonder if I am being oppressed and abused, because I can't possibly choose to wear this on my own!" That wasn't the intention of the mandate for modesty.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • AH

      It's ironic how you started off your comment with "I too am all for freedom of speech" before ranting on about your and your daughter's scare of the burqa and the way Muslim women dress. If you're truly all for freedom of speech, please don't taint that mighty comment with something as ridiculously hypocritical and contradicting as your personal anecdote.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  20. Dusty2701

    Try and go into a bank with your face covered. "Oh, I was only here to make a deposit, not rob the bank. That gun and plastic stuff with batteries underneath my garmet is part of my religious expression. I have rights!" Well, nobody has the right to scare the hell out of other people by hiding behind their so called "religion" just because they don't believe the way you do. The rest of the population that doesn't believe in Sharia Law has rights, too.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:05 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.