Quelle surprise: French ‘Burqa Ban’ makes life worse for niqab-wearing women.

In French law, it is now illegal to cover one’s face in public – a law which, by design, impacts upon Muslim women who choose to wear a niqab. Get caught wearing one, and you could find yourself hauled to a local police station, required to identify yourself, and (if referred to a local court) given a 150 Euro fine or required to take citizenship classes.

Since the law was introduced in April, niqab-wearing Muslim women have reported increased discrimination, such as being prevented from getting on buses or entering cinemas or cafes; and Islamophobic attacks, verbal and physical, have reportedly gone up.

A former law student and convert to Islam tries to go [swimming] when the beaches are quiet. The last time she went for a dip with her mother and 10-year-old daughter on a Sunday afternoon, a sunbather called the police. A group of officers arrived and hurried across the sand saying: “But Madame, what are you doing?” “I said: ‘I’m drying myself.’ They wrote in their notebooks, ‘Swimming in niqab.'” Stephanie, who prefers not to give her surname, was summoned by the local state prosecutor. She arrived at court and agreed to lift her veil so security guards could check her identity, but they refused to allow her access until an exasperated prosecutor buzzed her in himself.

It’s almost comical, were it not so appalling.

Here’s the kicker: the law’s in place, makes life worse for some women, seems to be divisive and fuelling discrimination – but no fines or penalties have *actually* been given yet. Why not? Because, argue lawyers, an imposed fine could be appealed, and an appeal could go right up to the European court of human rights, which may well rule the law in contravention of freedom of religion and other personal liberties. More here.

3 thoughts on “Quelle surprise: French ‘Burqa Ban’ makes life worse for niqab-wearing women.

  1. Maybe I’m seeing this wrong but: wearing a niqab is illegal and some people are telling niqab-wearing women that they can’t use their services if they wear the niqab. Isn’t that pretty normal for illegal stuff?

    Just to make clear: I’m against this law. Here in Belgium we have a similar law and they say it is to protect the women but this is definitely not the way to do such a thing.

  2. I think it depends on the illegal stuff. If the stuff is illegal due to unjust and discriminatory laws, I’m far less sympathetic to the justification that ‘I didn’t want that person doing illegal things in my property/whilst using that service, etc’.

    In fact, I’d think that if someone felt strongly that the law was unjust and discriminatory, there’d be a good case for civil disobedience and trying to make sure the individuals discriminated against by that law were not, as far as possible, disadvantaged in other ways.

    Anyway, it isn’t the case that by e.g. letting someone wearing a niqab onto the bus, the bus driver is doing something illegal (this might be the case with other kinds of illegal act).

    Also, I *think* I’ve read somewhere that the law prohibits members of the public from enforcing it – only police officers, and even they cannot give on the spot fines, but have to refer the matter to a local court.

    And also, if there’s (as the lawyers quoted in the linked article suggests) a tacit acknowledgement that the law couldn’t stand up in the ECHR, then its pretty disgraceful to let it stand on the books whilst some of your citizens use it to justify discrimination.

  3. Ah, I blogged too soon! Apparently there’s a case in the courts today… will watch with interest for the outcome.

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