News / Europe

Europe Rights Court Backs French Burqa Ban

File - Kenza Drider, wearing a niqab, drives a car in Avignon, southern France.
File - Kenza Drider, wearing a niqab, drives a car in Avignon, southern France.
Lisa Bryant

In a decision with potentially wider implications, Europe’s highest court on Tuesday upheld France's controversial 2010 ban on full-face veils in public, dismissing a case brought by a French woman against the state for breach of religious freedom.

In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a petition by a young Muslim woman that France's 2010 veil ban violated her rights and amounted to discrimination.

The Strasbourg-based court found the legislation did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

The French law bans most face-covering garments, including the Islamic face veil, or niqab, and Afghan-style burqa. 

French authorities argue the measure is important not only for security reasons, but because face veils violate France's secularist creed and women's rights.

Only a small minority of French Muslim women actually wear face veils - the government estimates less than 2,000 of France's 5 or 6 million Muslims. Nonetheless, the ban has sparked controversy, with some Muslims arguing it unfairly singles them out.

Reactions

Reacting to the ruling, French Council of the Muslim Faith head Dalil Boubakeur said face veils like the niqab are not a religious obligation.

Boubakeur said the word niqab is not mentioned in the Koran as a religious prescription.  He said he has no problem with banning the garment, although he said stricter Muslims may disagree.

But Amnesty International called the court's ruling "deeply damaging" and a "profound retreat on the right of freedom of expression and religion."

A researcher on radical Islam at the Paris-based National Center for Scientific Research, Maryam Borghee, said she is concerned about the ruling's ramifications.

In 2012, Borghee authored a book about why young French women adopt the veil, which she said many do voluntarily.

Borghee said she believes the ruling will deepen the divide between more conservative European Muslims, even if they are in the minority, and public powers. And it will reinforce the belief among Muslims that they are being stigmatized because of their religion.

The European court's ruling may have wider implications. 

Belgium also adopted the veil ban, as have some areas of Switzerland. 

In France, the ruling reinforces a number of judicial decisions in favor of the ban, including one just a few days ago by the country's highest court (Court of Cassation).

No discrimination

Two of the 17 judges, who spent several months deliberating on the case, dissented from the majority view. But the judges agreed unanimously that the woman had not been a victim of discrimination.

Authorities passed the law under former President Nicolas Sarkozy's administration, casting the full-faced veil as an affront to the country's tenets of secularism as well as being degrading to women. It is also a security risk, preventing the accurate identification of individuals, officials have said.

The 24-year-old French woman who brought the lawsuit had not been prosecuted under the law, which has resulted in only a few arrests since it was introduced in 2010, according to the French news agency AFP.

The woman, a university graduate, had requested anonymity for fear of reprisals in France over her action.

She had argued that being obliged to take off her veil in public was degrading.

In written evidence, she had testified that she wore the full veil of her own free will and was willing to remove it whenever required for security reasons - addressing two of the main arguments put forward by French authorities in support of the ban.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 01, 2014 1:56 PM
It's time the world reconsiders its stand with the so-called Amnesty International seemingly in support of everything in counter clockwise direction. Perhaps the body wants to use its mandate to force people to accept anything and everything, even when such can be harmful or injurious. There is a need to reappraise the usefulness or otherwise of the Amnesty International to avoid being misled by it in matters of security importance. In a world in want of transparency where bigots and miscreants have escaped or evaded arrest because of such ungodly camouflage, Amnesty International saying the court is "deeply damaging" is itself a profound retreat on its mandate to the right of security and protection of the individual and state.

And talking about stigmatization, islam and muslims have got enough reason to earn it. If people are not ashamed to be called muslim now, in the face of outrageous crises the religion has caused everywhere, boko haram in Nigeria, al qaida everywhere, el shebaab in Somalia, ISIL in Iraq, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, even to the killing and kidnapping of children and women etc. etc. then the world has gone crazy.
In Response

by: E. Marinos from: Athens, Greece
July 02, 2014 3:37 AM
France and generally Europe, in their constitutions accept full freedom in the believes of all of their CITIZENS, although the majority are Christians and some states declares that into their first article of their constitutions. Most of Christians uses to wear a cross under their clothes, just for themselves and according to their believes, so not to propound their faith in public "advertising" their faith, or bother other people with different faith. When Christians visit or stay in countries where other Creeds persist, they (the Christians) follow the rules of that country and they do not defy. So dear of any Creed, YOU HAVE TO DO THE SAME TOO if you want to enjoy the same rights as the locals, otherwise you will become outlaw.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs