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. Anakaraya

    If a women wants to use a burqa, why should they stop her? whats the harm?

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

      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.

      Men are forbidden to wear ski masks in public.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Connie

      They have only themselves to thank...if it weren't for extremist terrorism, this would not be an issue.

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

      Because if it covers her face, we don't know who's under there. Could be a terrorist going to blow everyone up.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Rafael

      @Connie: You're completely right. ALL Muslims are extremists. I am very glad that you call 9-1-1 every single time you see a Muslim, Connie, to report the extremists.

      Of course, if you DIDN'T call 9-1-1 every time you saw an extremist, which by your own admission are all Muslims, then YOU are a terrorist yourself, in aiding them in their endeavor. So, which are you? The woman that sits in her home dialing 9-1-1 all day, or the terrorist?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  2. Joan

    "got chicken france" adds a little bit of hate and hostility to all the conversations. Not unlike a you know who – from you know where. Way to go ambassador chicken.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • got chicken france

      palin.. didnt we tell you to go back to the kitchen.. we heard enough of your rant from your terror tea bags today..

      September 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  3. Joe

    This is simple. The only things that are banned are the clothing that cover a person's face. The rest of the outfits: the Hijab and Chador are okay. I agree with this as I don't want masked people running around where I live. This doesn't engender trust. They have to realize they moved to a country that doesn't allow it...or they changed religions, etc. It doesn't matter, you have to learn to adapt to whatever culture you live in.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  4. Lurker

    If their faces are covered how can anyone identify them ?
    People seem to forget that we have HD cameras all over the place that can do face recognition (including Banks)
    This is about identification, and not religious oppression.
    Maybe they aren't prepared to say that, but its the truth. Anyone can hide in these covered up, thus the law about 'public places'. Get a clue people it has nothing to due with religion. They need to take your picture.
    And they would not allow us to walk around with ski masks either.

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

      What if you were, like, going skiing.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  5. JohnQuest

    Elizabeth, I am far more afraid of Christians terrorist than I am of Islamic terrorist.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • got chicken france

      ssshhh you cant say that.. lol

      September 22, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Sean

      1 "Christian" terrorist incident in the last ten years. 10,000+ "Islamic" terrorist incidents in the last ten years. You should definitely be afraid of the Christians.. Hindus and Buddhists too.. Arent they also known for strapping sticks of dynamite to their body and exploding themselves in public places?

      September 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  6. tonelok

    @Canada Calling
    What exactly would a terrorist want with Canada? Unless they got confused and thought you were the 51st state.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  7. Guest

    This law wouldn't exist if the muslims would clean up there own "community". Reminds me of a time when some idiots decided to wear nazi crap and stage a parade. The police had to protect them becuase the general public was going to clean up these sick minds. If the muslims want respect for there customs then they need to take responibilty of the actions of these sick people and clean it up.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  8. Ryguy

    You may be free to act how you please but you are not free to choose your consequence. Follow the rules of the land or get out.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  9. tom

    I think you are quoting a Bob Dylan song...

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

    Future generations tend to frown and dislike actions that took place in the past... just a matter of time till future generations revoke the law..

    September 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Joan

      Then why doesn't afganistan get their act together??

      September 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • got chicken france

      they did actually.. until another imperialist country wanted to join the list of defeated nations in afghanistan

      September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • got chicken france

      in the end the people for the law will be the losers when the law is revoked.. just have to wait.. could be right around the corner with the next president..

      Argentina president WHO IS A WOMEN actually passed a law allowing Muslims TO KEEP there covering on no matter what building or ID card picture.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  11. guest

    @Rafael: it isn't just their religion, it's their agenda that is included in their religion. You gotta be blind if you can't see what is happening! Their agenda isn't freedom, it's to infilterate a country and take it over. A long time processes.

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

      Yes, unlike the Christian agenda - to convert ("save") everyone whether they want it or not, to force their moral judgement into legislation to prevent gays from marrying, and to force their moral judgement into legislation to prevent a woman from having control over her own body.

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

      @guest: Let me explain something as clear as water, and that you obviously can't see. Are you a Muslim? Has a Muslim come to you, and explained this hidden agenda? If not, please, stick to finding government conspiracy theories. They're more tangible than your flavor-of-the-month pursuits.

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

      I'm pretty sure none of them want to "infilterate" anything. Assuming you mean "infiltrate" you have no basis for assuming that about all muslims. It easy to scapegoat an entire religious group when you are frightened by extremists. Remember that scapegoating is what brought the U.S. lynching of african Americans and what brought Germany the holocaust. But maybe you think african Americans are trying to "infilterate" the U.S.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  12. goback

    why would the france governemnt let them into the country in the first place
    they can go back to where they came from and not be bothered by these laws at all

    September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  13. doodler

    By the way..... its ALL RADICAL... dont let anyone fool you. READ THEIR BOOK!!!! ITS FULL OF HATE AND COMMANDING THEM TO FIGHT US AND KILL US OR CONVERT US!!! It doesn't give you Free Will, like Christianity.... or any other religion. People, wake up!

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

      oh really!!! have you read bible?....it has more voilent verses and similar punishments for adultry than their......thats a separate story that you have stopped following your scripture.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • James

      Well, I guess you have read it at all. Second chapter says there can be no compulsion of religion. Hmm, I hope you know what that means. Also, Christians and Jews are people of the book in Islam. They go to heaven, unlike the new testament where only Christians go to heaven. Another thing, you have to understand the history and what was going on at the time and apparently you don't. So, I think it is you who is blind and completely unaware of everything. One more thing, don't going using hadiths to quote anything because there are only 40 authentic hadiths. The rest are debatable that they even come from the Prophet saw.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • J

      I would bet $ you haven't read their book, translated or not, and that you don't even know what their "book" is called.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  14. Canada Calling

    Here in Canada they are permitted to walk around all covered up. It scares the heck out of a lot of us. Who knows what they have under those things. What are they concealing? What further horror's do they want to reveal. I love France for standing up to this!! I wish more countries would. If they don't like it, LEAVE!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Here in Canada it gets mighty cold in the winter.
      When I go strolling out in January, I wear a toque, scarf and sunglasses to prevent snow blindness – effectively covering my entire face.
      I guess I should be tossed in jail, eh?

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

      There is a reason their husbands cover them up....FUGLY!!!!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Rafael

      Canada is completely right! Who knows what they have underneath the cloth that covers their face? I mean... they could be chickens! Or cows! Or even Aliens! We know how scared we are of those, right??? THE HORROR!

      "We hates them, pprrrrecious! We hates them because they be diffffffferent from us ::Gollum! Gollum!:: Yes preciousssssss, different!"

      September 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Canadian

      Kudos fellow Canadian

      September 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  15. Rod in Texas

    Good for France. I wish America would do the same thing. Religion is one thing and safety is another. This is my favorite quote from above. "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," This has nothing to do with their body. They can cover their body if they choose. The only thing banned is covering their faces. That's it. If you want to live in this country, you have to atleast show your face. The world is no longer safe from those that claim religion as their excuse.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  16. American Play Boy


    September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  17. Rafael

    You know what? I've changed my mind. Ban burqas, ban the scarf, ban head coverings, ban everything. Ban crosses, bibles, religious symbols, and maybe... just MAYBE... one day we'll ban religion altogether, and finally start living in a world where self-righteousness due to the imaginary is not a quality; and religious leaders will stop following the higher power that tells them to go to war, over and over and over again.

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

      Islam is not a religion. It is a cult.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Mousy Tongue

      You can move to China and experience all that you propose right away.

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

      So is your religion. What's your point?

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

      Or better yet, Mousy Tongue: I can go to a christian country and experience far worse.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  18. huh?

    If they don't like the law, they should go back to where they are from. Quit trying to force your "religious" ideas on others. France is a free country and not a Muslim theocracy... and good thing it's not. Don't come to America either and try to force your views on us.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Do you not see the irony of saying "This is a free country! If you want to express your cultural heritage go somewhere else!"

      September 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • J

      How is choosing to wear an article of clothing "forcing" anything on anyone. Are you that weak minded that if you see someone wearing an article of clothing you feel compelled to believe everything they do? Ridiculous.

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

      I guess if a 10th-generation French Citizen converts to Islam, they should be shipped back to France, right Sherlock Holmes? Oh, wait: let me guess, you just took your Mr. Obvious pill and went on a rant there, right?

      Your brain is not plush (I hope). Try using it, so you don't corroborate the notion that Americans are nothing more than burger-eating ignorant bigots. Please.

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


      September 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Sarah

      How does a woman wearing a burqa force her views and religion on you any more than a woman wearing a tshirt forces her views and religion on you? She's just existing. She's just going to the grocery store, the bookstore, to school. She's doing things that all people do. She's not forcing you to believe her own beliefs. She's practicing her own beliefs, the same way a christian would wear a cross around their neck. I'm not Muslim or Christian, and I have never felt someone forcing their beliefs on me by wearing a burqa or a cross.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • noah

      Say move back to An Islamic Country not to your country. Because there are native French and native Americans born and raised there but they choose to wear the burqa. This is a religion is a creed It has nothing to do with where you come from. And believe it or not Islam will prevail and Muslims will prevail as it is crystal clear through out the world. This is the statement of the Almighty in His Holy Book: " They desire to extinguish the light of ALLAH with the breath of their mouths, but ALLAH will perfect HIS light, however much the disbelievers may dislike it.
      9. HE it is Who has sent HIS Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth, that HE may cause it to prevail over all religions, however much those who associate partners with ALLAH may dislike it. Quran. 60:9-10 . The mission of the Muslims is to take the people out from the worship of the people to the worship of the Lord of the people and from the oppression of the false religions to the justice of Islam and from the narrowness of this world to the spaciousness of this world and the hereafter, the eternal bliss. May the Almighty guide guide those who do not know to the right path and keep those who are rightly guided firm upon their guidance amen.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  19. bond008

    With increasing terror attacks, these kind of Security measures are to welcomed. Why dont these Ladies tell the Terrorist muslims to stop bombimg innocent people and no country will be giving a thought abt these kind of bans..........As this is for any one who wears a face Cover this shouldnt be seen as religiuos issue .It is purely Security issue.

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

      Really? Just go say "Hey, you terrorist guy, stop bombing innocent people." Yeah, that will work great. Ruh-tard.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    The law in France is not specific to Muslims, but rather puts restrictions on anybody covering their face.
    "Nobody may, in a public place, wear an article designed to mask the face."
    There are some exceptions made for health reasons, professional concerns, sports gear, party masks etc.
    What will probably be argued is the last of the exceptions – "artistic or traditional".
    Are the Muslim coverings not considered traditional?

    September 22, 2011 at 10:15 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.