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EU court reviews French burqa ban

28th Nov 2013

At the European Court of Human Rights, France’s ‘burqa ban’ that prohibits full-face veils is under review. Critics of the ban see it as a violation of religious freedom.

The court in Strasbourg began its review of the French burqa ban on Wednesday, looking to see if it violated the rights of a young woman who brought the case to the court.


France’s law prohibiting garments that conceal the face in public dates back to 2011. Violators of the ban face a 150 euro ($203) fine.

French authorities said the ban was an attempt to liberate Muslim women who are sometimes forced to wear a burqa (a full-face veil) or a niqab (a veil with a slit for the wearer’s eyes, pictured above). Muslims countered that the ban stigmatized their religion.

The women who filed the case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said she wore a niqab of her own free will with no pressure from her husband or family. She said the ban violated her right to privacy, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression.

Seventeen judges from different European counties are hearing the case, and a decision is not expected for several months.

The case started the same day the Court of Appeal in Paris upheld the decision of a private daycare to fire a woman for refusing to take off a headscarf at work.

French law prohibits any religious symbols from being displayed in public schools, but the Court of Appeal decided the private daycare could set its own rules. The court’s decision went against a previous ruling from France’s Court of Cassation, which ruled the secular school laws did not apply in the private daycare and the woman’s right to freedom of religion prevailed.

A lawyer for Fatima Afif said she would continue the appeals process all the way to the ECHR if necessary.

mz/av (AFP, dpa)

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