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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora