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European Human Rights Court Upholds France’s Burqa Ban


The European Human Rights Court has decided not on the basis of France’s main arguments about ‘public-safety’ or ‘women’s rights’ but ‘social cohesion.’

The Strasbourg-based court ruled the general ban imposed by the government wasn’t justified on public-safety grounds, or to protect women’s rights. But it said France’s aim of improving social cohesion through the ban was legitimate.

“The court was…able to accept that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face was perceived by the respondent state as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which made living together easier,” it said.

European rights court upholds French ‘burqa ban’

The court’s decision follows a case brought by a 24-year-old French woman of Pakistani origin, described as a “perfect French citizen”, argued that the ban violated her rights to freedom of religion, expression and assembly, and was discriminatory.

The woman, identified only by her initials SAS, said that being forced to take off her veil in public constituted “degrading treatment” and also was an attack on her private and family life.

In written evidence, SAS – who did not appear – testified that she was not forced to wear a burqa and that she was willing to remove it whenever required for security reasons, directly addressing the French authorities’ two main arguments in favour of the ban.

Women ‘stigmatised’

Her appeal to the court was supported by international human rights group Amnesty International, which told FRANCE 24 before the ruling that France’s law “only served to stigmatise women, and Muslim women in particular”.

“The argument that the law protects women has no foundation,” said Amnesty’s President Geneviève Garrigos. “Many [Muslim] women wear veils of their own free will.

“The state does not exist to tell people how they should dress. Rather, it should allow them to make their own choices.”

Garrigos argued that while the law ostensibly targets all face-covering garments – religious or not – it was a mere “façade” hiding legislation specifically targeting Muslim women.

“Everyone knows this law wasn’t created to stop people walking in the streets wearing motorcycle helmets,” she said. “If everyone had to be recognizable by security services all of the time, they should ban anything that hides facial features, including wigs and fake beards.”

“People must accept that they might have their identity controlled by the police,” she added. “Women who wear burqas and other full veils submit voluntarily to this.”

French ban on all religious symbols in schools

The hearing comes just days after one of France’s highest courts upheld the 2008 sacking of Fatima Afif, a worker at a kindergarten in the Paris suburbs, for wanting to wear a headscarf to work.

Overt religious symbols – headscarves, crucifixes, Jewish skullcaps and Sikh turbans, for example – are banned from French state schools, which operate on strictly secular lines.

Many Muslims view France, which is officially a secular republic despite being overwhelmingly Catholic, as imposing its values on them and other religious minorities.

France has one of the biggest Muslim populations in Europe. Beyond the veil issue, there has been controversy in the past over whether schools and holiday camps should be required to provide halal food to Muslim children.

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  • Tanveer ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Khan

    I went easy on you because I’m in a generous mood.
    Am I witnessing the Ramadan spirit?

  • 1DrM

    Brilliant analysis. The French are digging their own graves in the long term by showcasing such mean spirited xenophobia at their Muslim citizens, many of whose immediate ancestors fought for France in both World Wars. Not smart at all. Who in their right mind would want to integrate with such scum? If you screw over people long enough, they eventually will turn against you.

    Muslims should treat French tourists with the same love and respect the “fifth republic” gives to it’s minorities : NONE.

  • Amie

    In the light of the “war on terror” I can see how their argument to ban the burka holds: the least Western Muslim women can show is their face to the world, so that people can identify them. However, I can see this ban extending to the hijab too and that is definitely NOT ok.

  • Amie

    No, Islam does NOT terrorize anyone. Read a book and learn, educate yourself. Now, if you were to say that SOME Muslims, Christians and Jews, as do atheists (think Commies in China), terrorize certain people, I think you would be right.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Why, of course. As you said a while back, they need not be religious to be extremists. Yes, one wonders who of them are worse, the socialist/secular or the religious Zionists. I would say all of them who are ultranationalists. WIth the Serbs it’s the same. Those of Milosevic’s party call themselves socialists; othes are very religious, and of course the Serb Orthodix Church backs the Genocidal Anti-Bosniak Crusade. With Hindu or Burmese anti-Muslims it’s the same. There are very religious and utterly atheist ones. But they all are genocidals and ultranationalists. No surprise there; a lot of Mafiosi see themselves as good Christians, why shoud it be different with other kind of criminals that they consider themselves to be good followers of their respective religion?

  • 1DrM

    Don’t forgot to mention that Zionism is also an atheist movement born in the bowels of Europe, and whose first victims were religious Jews. Zionists will claim that “God gave me this land” but most don’t believe in God.
    Pure opportunism.

  • Ahmed

    Say yes to humanity….. say no to religious freedom? Do you understand an iota of the contradictory paradox you have set?

    Fine. Idiots will be idiots.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Bullshit. The Stalinists, Maoists, Titoists, Nazis are atheist, aren’t they. Some humanitarians they are. And a lot of atheists in their hatred and disdain of non-athest people and their belief that they must force their ideas on everybody else and wipe outthose who won’t accept them are just as evil as any other ultranationalist or fundamentalist, fascist, bigoted, xenophobic scum. Also, what a coincidence that most of you lot happen to be white. So don’t give me that.

  • golden izanagi

    “that terrorizes everyone”
    interesting oh sorry I was just reading this story about muslims donating blankets, ah this story always warms my heart whenever I read it.

  • Ahmed

    It shows who’s the fool here.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    But of course. (ah, if it were just that).

  • Tanveer ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Khan

    People who want to see a woman’s face in the hope that she’s very pretty?

  • Just_Stopping_By

    “Overt religious symbols – headscarves, crucifixes, Jewish skullcaps and
    Sikh turbans, for example – are banned from French state schools…”

    Well, then, I trust that they would never let in the following guest speaker or have actors in the following roles in French state schools, n’est-ce pas?

  • Razainc_aka_BigBoss

    Disappointing but not surprising

  • John Smith

    Highly disturbing. Instead of banning all religious items, which in itself is a restriction of freedoms, allow them all? This works in US schools, I see students with hijabs and turbans all the time and there are no problems ever occurring.

  • mindy1

    So in order to have a free society one must restrict freedoms-got it :/ in all seriousness, who is being hurt by burqa wearers?

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