News / Europe

Court Cases Challenge France's Face Veil Ban

FILE - A 31-year-old French veiled woman, no name released, addresses the media in Nantes, western France, April 23, 2010.FILE - A 31-year-old French veiled woman, no name released, addresses the media in Nantes, western France, April 23, 2010.
x
FILE - A 31-year-old French veiled woman, no name released, addresses the media in Nantes, western France, April 23, 2010.
FILE - A 31-year-old French veiled woman, no name released, addresses the media in Nantes, western France, April 23, 2010.
Lisa Bryant
Two years after becoming law in France, a ban on face-covering Muslim veils is facing a pair of high-profile legal challenges.  The cases in French and European courts may force Paris to roll back the legislation and have ramifications elsewhere in Europe.  

In 2011, France became the first European country to ban face-covering Muslim veils in public places.  The legislation was generally to include items like ski masks as well as veils, but many felt it singled out France's five-million-strong Muslim community, the largest in Europe.  The debate also spread across the region.  Belgium followed France in adopting the ban.  In September, so did a canton in southern Switzerland.

France argues the ban is needed for security reasons and to protect its secular traditions.

But today, France's ban faces legal challenges - one at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and another at a trial that opened this week in the Paris suburb of Versailles.

The plaintiff, a 20-year-old convert to Islam called Cassandra Belin, did not appear at the opening of the Versaille trial.  But her lawyer, Philippe Bataille, questions the constitutionality of the ban, which was passed under the previous conservative government.  

At the time, France's Constitutional Council, the highest legal body, had no objections to the legislation.  But Bataille argues it should reexamine the ban, looking specifically at whether it violates personal freedoms and human dignity enshrined by French and European laws.  

Bataille says the legislation is only acceptable in narrow circumstances - like airport checks - when a covered face could pose a security risk.

For some Muslims like M'Hammed Henniche, General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Associations of the Seine-Saint-Denis region outside Paris, the legislation makes no sense.  

Henniche notes only a small minority of Muslim women in France wear the face veil.  It's unlikely to change their habits, but it has succeeded in riling the larger Muslim community and giving France a bad name.  

Henniche also lists a series of other debates in recent years - against minarets in mosques, street prayers on Fridays, halal meat and whether foreigners should vote.  All have cemented a belief among French Muslims that they are being singled out.

French authorities estimate only a few hundred women have been stopped or fined for wearing veils since the ban came into effect.  Many are repeat offenders.  But the ban continues to spark deep divisions.  In November, the European rights court in Strasbourg agreed to examine it.  

Nicolas Cadene, of the government's Observatory on Secularism, says if the European Court decides the law goes against Europe's human rights convention, France may need to draft new legislation.

Verdicts for both the French and European court challenges will be delivered next year.  And like the veil ban, they are likely to resonate far beyond France's borders.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
December 16, 2013 1:11 PM
Philippe Bataille argues whether the ban on masquerading or total covering of the face in public violates personal freedoms and human dignity enshrined in French and European laws. Here I cannot say yes of no, because I do not live in Europe and may not understand all the twists and aberrations out there that are collectively referred to as human rights. However, we all agree that a total nakedness on the streets is a violation of human rights, even if it is the choice of the person so undressed.

Likewise, not just for the security challenge it presents, we should agree that it is even more dehumanizing to be bagged inside a leather sack, blanket, or any clothing materials, though it may be somebody's choice, but mostly born out of extreme and sometimes misplaced religious attachment that is capable of causing a breach of the peace, unhealthy rivalry and violence. Religion should be private a thing, unless Europe is about to become like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, etc - one of those totalitarian Islamist countries where everybody is uniformed otherwise one is termed an infidel.

As it is in those Muslim countries where one goes and obeys their rules - no bible, no walking on the street with your woman, and such like, why should Muslims not obey other peoples' laws and MUST change same to suit them? To change the ban on those coverages should be a greater violation of the human rights of the French and European citizens who chose in the first place to have a secular constitution. Then it is a secular constitution which everybody should respect and obey while those who choose to cover up themselves should do so within the ambit or jurisdiction of their religion, or an Islamist constitution so that those who do not wear a hijab should understand that they should but are permitted to avoid it if they choose not to. For an approval of that dressing is a violation of secular rights of the Europeans.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs