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.