PARIS (RNS) Europe’s top human rights court has rejected a petition by a young Muslim woman who claimed France’s 2010 veil ban violated her rights to freedom of expression and religion and amounted to discrimination.

Females are asked to remove head coverings on a women-only floor at Kingdom Tower in Saudia Arabia. Europe’s top human rights court rejected a petition by a Muslim woman who claimed France’s 2010 veil ban violated her rights to free expression and religion and amounted to discrimination.

Patrons are asked to remove head coverings on a women-only floor at Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. Europe’s top human rights court rejected a petition by a Muslim woman who claimed France’s 2010 veil ban violated her rights to free expression of religion and amounted to discrimination. Creative Commons image by Anduze Traveller

The French law bans most face-covering garments in public for security reasons. That includes the Islamic face-covering veil, or niqab, which authorities argue violates France’s secularist creed and women’s rights.

While a minority of women wear the face veils — fewer than 2,000, the government estimates, out of France’s roughly 2.5 million Muslim women — many Muslims feel the legislation unfairly singles them out.

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights sparked swift reactions, with Amnesty International calling it “a profound retreat for the freedom of expression and religion.”

Maryam Borghee, a Paris-based researcher on radical Islam, also expressed concern.

“These laws reinforce a sense of marginalization and possibly even radicalization among these young people, even if they’re a minority” of Muslims, said Borghee, who wrote a 2012 book on Muslim women adopting the niqab.

But Dalil Boubakeur, head of the state-backed French Council of the Muslim Faith, said he had no problem with the law.

“The word niqab doesn’t figure in the Quran as a religious prescription,” Boubakeur said. “There may be some people who maintain it’s a religious prescription, but for me, it isn’t an obligation.”

Besides France, Belgium has also adopted the veil ban, as have parts of Switzerland, Spain and Italy. In France, several court decisions have similarly affirmed the ban’s legality.

YS/MG END BRYANT

11 Comments

  1. In the name of public security, face veils must be removed.

    In the name of public security, the department of the “homeland” was created in america.

    In the name of public security, all guns must be confiscated from everyone.

    In the name of public security, you must submit to local peace officers using military grade equipment on your streets.

    In the name of public security, I must ask you to strip, hand over your cell phone and submit to 24 hour electronic surveillance.

    Government exists to secure the public safety. But isn’t the reason “extremists” are fighting us a result of oppressive government in the first place?

    • The Great God Pan

      In the West, hiding one’s face in public is considered sinister. It suggests one does not want to be identified. It’s for Klansmen and bank robbers.

      If Westerners traveling or living in Muslim countries are expected to know and follow the local cultural restrictions, why are Muslims in Western countries not expected to do the same? Why does “respect” always seem to be a one-way street?

      • Well said. There’s a lot of knee jerk reactions from the extremely liberal left which seems to fail to understand that freedom is also about responsibility and participation: if individuals come to live in the West, they have to be willing to respect our values and customs. This is great part an issue of incompatibility between very different cultures. The French have a right to say no to a custom which is incompatible with western democratic values that do not support the oppression of women and the hiding of one’s identity.

        • Since when is not covering your face a democratic American value? That’s the first I have ever heard of it. This is rather obvious but if it were an American value then the issue would have come up over here and been brought to the courts long ago.

  2. Would this pass muster under the American 1st Amendment?

    Not even close.

    Under that same law that Hobby Lobby abused like a redheaded stepchild, RFRA, a general ban would hardy qualify as the least restrictive means to meet a government interest.

    That being said, in situations where security and identification is important: airports, courthouses, at the DMV or buying a firearm, restrictions on face obscuring garments is more than reasonable.

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