Skip to main content

European rights court rules in favor of French burqa ban

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
[File photo] Women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy in protest on April 11, 2011 in London, England.
[File photo] Women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy in protest on April 11, 2011 in London, England.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The court says the law doesn't violate the European Convention on Human Rights
  • A young French woman brought the case to the court
  • She says the ban infringes on her ability to live according to her faith and convictions
  • The French law went into effect in April 2011

(CNN) -- The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a claim by a young Muslim woman that France's ban on the wearing of burqas and niqabs in public violates her rights.

The French law banning the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes, went into effect in April 2011.

It has pitted religious freedom advocates against those who say the Islamic veil is demeaning to women and inconsistent with France's rigorously enforced secularism.

2011: Burqa ban stirs debate
2011: Fighting France's 'burqa ban'

A 24-year-old French woman brought the case to Europe's top rights court in Strasbourg because she says the ban infringes on her ability to live according to her religious faith, culture and personal convictions.

But the court said Tuesday that it found that the French law doesn't breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

Muslim woman's case

The woman, a devout Muslim whose name has not been disclosed, had tried to draw on several articles of the convention to make her case.

Those articles cover the right to respect for private and family life; the right to respect for freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and the prohibition of discrimination.

The woman said no member of her family has put pressure on her to wear the burqa and niqab. She wears them in public and private, but not all the time, she said.

The European Court of Human Rights started hearing the case in November.

Debate in France

The French Constitutional Council said in 2010 that the law does not impose disproportionate punishments or prevent the free exercise of religion in a place of worship, finding therefore that "the law conforms to the Constitution."

But critics argue the government has no business telling people what clothes to wear or how to practice their religion.

The law drew criticism from some human rights and religious organizations and some Muslims as discriminatory. France has Western Europe's largest Muslim population.

The French law imposes a fine of 150 euros (about $205) for wearing the items. The person breaking the law can be asked to carry out public service duty as part of the punishment or as an alternative to the fine.

When the legislation came into effect, some analysts said it was largely born out of internal French politics, with former President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right party seeking to fend off a challenge from a more hard-line right wing.

CNN's Claudia Rebaza contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT