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French 'burqa ban' legal, court rules

European Court of Human Rights backs controversial law banning Muslim women wearing full face veils in public

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights has today upheld a French law that bans Muslim women from wearing a full face veil in public.

It is the third time that the Strasbourg-based court has said that the ban does not violate their human rights.

The court said that France had not exceeded its authority when it introduced the controversial law in 2010.

The case was brought by a 24-year-old woman who lives in France with the backing of human rights group Amnesty International. She was represented by a British law firm that specialises in human rights law.

Her lawyers argued that the French law was discriminatory. They said the security claims of the ban were “a facade” to prevent Muslim women wearing the niqab or burqa.

They said that the plaintiff, identified in court only by the initials SAS, would remove the veil if required to do so for security reasons, but that she should have the right to “wear it when she chooses to do so”.

They also said that she had never been forced to wear the veil.

But the court ruled that the law, which bans the wearing of full face veils for security and discriminatory reasons and not religious ones did not violate her human rights.

It said the ban was “proportionate” to its aims and noted that the €150 fine for flouting it “was among the lightest the law could consider”.

The ruling comes days after one of France's highest courts upheld the 2008 sacking of Fatima Afif, a worker at a Paris kindergarten, for wanting to wear a headscarf to work - contrary to a ban on the wearing of overtly religious symbols in France’s secular state schools.

Belgium and some parts of Switzerland have also outlawed face veils, while similar bans are being considered in Italy and The Netherlands.

Photo: Kevin Browne -

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