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Montevideo, September 24th 2018 - 18:17 UTC

EU upholds ban by France on wearing the Muslim full-face veil: niqab

Wednesday, July 2nd 2014 - 07:35 UTC
Full article 26 comments
The woman who took the case said she chose to wear the niqab as a matter of religious freedom, as a devout Muslim The woman who took the case said she chose to wear the niqab as a matter of religious freedom, as a devout Muslim

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld a ban by France on wearing the Muslim full-face veil, the niqab. A case was brought by a 24-year-old French woman, who argued that the ban on wearing the veil in public violated her freedom of religion and expression.

 French law says nobody can wear in public space clothing intended to conceal the face. The penalty for doing so can be a 150-Euro fine. The 2010 law came in under former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy. A breach of the ban can also mean a wearer having to undergo citizenship instruction.

France has about five million Muslims - the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe - but it is thought only about 2,000 women wear full veils.

The court ruled that the ban “was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face”. The Strasbourg judges' decision is final - there is no appeal against it.

A court statement said the ruling also “took into account the state's submission that the face played a significant role in social interaction”.

“The Court was also able to understand the view that individuals might not wish to see, in places open to all, practices or attitudes which would fundamentally call into question the possibility of open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question.”

Some face coverings, including motorbike helmets, are exempted from the French ban.

The woman, identified only by the initials SAS, took her case to the European Court in 2011. She said she was under no family pressure to wear the niqab, but chose to do so as a matter of religious freedom, as a devout Muslim.

France was the first European country in modern times to ban public wearing of the full-face veil. Belgium adopted a similar ban in 2011. In Spain, the city of Barcelona and some other towns have brought in similar bans, as have some towns in Italy.

No such general ban applies in the UK, but institutions have discretion to impose their own dress codes.

The French government argues that the ban has wide public support. The authorities see the full-face veil not only as an affront to French secular values but also as a potential security risk, as it conceals a person's identity.

In the past, the European Court has sided with French secularism - it also ruled in favor of the government's ban on headscarves in schools. But in 2010, the judges did find against Turkey, ruling that religious garments were not in themselves a threat to public order.

Categories: Politics, International.

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  • Heisenbergcontext

    “The court was able to understand the view that individuals might not wish to see, in places open to all, practices and attitudes which would fundamentally call into question the possibility of interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question”.

    That is a perfectly worded paragraph clearly defining the limits of the degree to which middle-eastern culture can challenge French culture. It has nothing to with religious freedom - the hijab, veil and niqab all precede the emergence of Islam - and there is nothing about not wearing a veil that prevents this woman from expressing her religious beliefs.

    I have no problem with Islamic women wearing any kind of head-covering - if that is their wish. Equally I have no problem with the French state setting boundaries for what they consider to be inappropriate behaviour, in public, within it's borders.

    Jul 02nd, 2014 - 09:14 am 0
  • Briton

    It is up to each country to make their own laws,
    and thus must be obeyed by foreigners or tourist alike,

    as they say, [ When in Rome ].

    Jul 02nd, 2014 - 10:26 am 0
  • lsolde

    l don't think the sun in France is as ravaging to the face as in Arabia, etc.
    So there is no real need for this type of clothing.
    You madame, or your family chose to go to La France.
    Therefore you must abide by her laws.
    lf you don't want to abide by French laws, then leave France.
    lf l were to choose to live in the middle East, then l would have no problem with wearing lslamic dress.

    Jul 02nd, 2014 - 11:16 am 0
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