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French ban on face covering

french ban on face covering for muslim, french ban on face covering hoodies
The French ban on religious garb French: LOI n° 2010-1192: Loi interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public,1 "Law of 2010-1192: Act prohibiting concealment of the face in public space" is an act of parliament passed by the Senate of France on 14 September 2010, resulting in the ban on the wearing of face-covering headgear, including masks, helmets, balaclavas, niqābs and other veils covering the face in public places, except under specified circumstances2 The ban also applies to the burqa, a full-body covering, if it covers the face Consequently, full body costumes and Zentais skin-tight garments covering entire body were banned The bill had previously been passed by the National Assembly of France on 13 July 20103

Arguments supporting this proposal include that religious garb prevent the clear identification of a person which is both a security risk, and a social hindrance within a society which relies on facial recognition and expression in communication, that forcing women to cover their faces as happens in some Muslim cultures is sexist, and that Muslims who continue this practice should be forced to assimilate traditional French social norms Argument against include that the ban encroaches on individual freedoms,4 and that it discriminates against interpretations of Islam that require or encourage women to wear face coverings, that it takes away the choice of women to decide whether to dress according to a particular standard of modesty, and prevents anonymity in situations where it might be socially or personally desirable Islamic scholars differ on whether there is a religious requirement for a full face covering as was required under the Taliban regime and practiced elsewhere, or merely for a head and hair covering such as a hijab, which is practiced widely and legally mandated in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and parts of Indonesia Some Muslims follow neither rule

As of 11 April 2011, it is illegal to wear a face-covering veil or other masks in public places such as the street, shops, museums, public transportation, and parks Veils such as the chador, scarves and other headwear that do not cover the face, are not affected by this law and can be worn5 The law applies to all citizens, including men and non-Muslims, who may not cover their face in public except where specifically provided by law such as motor-bike riders and safety workers and during established occasional events such as some carnivals The law imposes a fine of up to €150, and/or participation in citizenship education, for those who violate the law67 The bill also penalises, with a fine of €30,000 and one year in prison, anyone who forces by violence, threats, or abuse of power another to wear face coverings; these penalties may be doubled if the victim is under the age of 18268

As a result of the law, the only exceptions to a woman wearing a niqāb in public will be if she is travelling in a private car or worshiping in a religious place9 French police say that while there are five million Muslims in France, fewer than 2,000 are thought to fully cover their faces with a veil3 The wearing of all conspicuous religious symbols in public schools was previously banned in 2004 by a different law, the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools This affected the wearing of Islamic veils and headscarves in schools, as well as turbans and other distinctive items of dress

The law was challenged and taken to the European Court of Human Rights which upheld the French law on 1 July 2014, accepting the argument of the French government that the law was based on "a certain idea of living together"10


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Bill
  • 3 Response
  • 4 Implementation
    • 41 Reactions to the law's introduction
  • 5 See also
  • 6 External links
  • 7 References


The French Parliament began an initial inquiry on the issue shortly after President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in June 2009 that religious face veils were "not welcome" within France11 Sarkozy had stated that the law is to protect women from being forced to cover their faces and to uphold France's secular values1213 A poll carried out by Pew Research Center leading up to the vote indicated that 80% of French voters supported the ban14 It was estimated that about 2,000 women wore the head coverings to be banned by this bill3

In 2010, the Belgian lower house of parliament approved a bill to ban facial coverings, but this was not voted into law as the Belgian government fell before the Senate could vote on it15 As of 2010, when the French law was being debated, partial bans were being discussed in the Netherlands and Spain; bans had been announced locally in Italy but later declared unconstitutional, leading to a national law being proposed; and public debate on the issue was starting in Austria, while Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland did not consider legislation, although in the UK, directives had been issued leaving the issue to the discretion of school directors and magistrates816

Egyptian Islamic scholar Al-Azhar opined that the face-covering veil is actually not Islamic and is not encouraged by the Quran Instead, they say that it is part of Muslim cultural heritage17

Fadela Amara, who had recently served as a junior minister in the French government and is a Muslim, had previously declared that: "The veil is the visible symbol of the subjugation of women, and therefore has no place in the mixed, secular spaces of France's state school system"18


The bill was passed by the National Assembly by a vote of 335–1 The sole vote against the ban in the National Assembly was cast by Daniel Garrigue, who warned that "to fight an extremist behavior, we risk slipping toward a totalitarian society"3 It was passed by the Senate by a vote of 246–1, with 100 abstentions5 The bill prohibits the wearing of face-coverings in public places and also applies to foreign tourists visiting France8 The law imposes a fine of up to €150, and/or participation in citizenship education, for those who violate the law67 The bill also penalises, with a fine of €30,000 and one year in prison, anyone who forces by violence, threats or by abuse of power another to wear face coverings; these penalties may be doubled if the victim is under the age of 18268 The Constitutional Council of France declared the ban constitutionally valid on 7 October 2010, clearing the final legal obstacle for the law, but the law was designed to come into force after the elapse of six months from the day of its publication in the Journal Officiel819


Dalil Boubakeur, the grand mufti of the Paris Mosque, the largest and most influential in France, testified to parliament during the bill's preparation He commented that the niqāb was not prescribed in Islam, that in the French and contemporary context its spread was associated with radicalisation and criminal behavior, and that its wearing was inconsistent with France's concept of the secular state; but that due to expected difficulties in applying a legal ban, he would prefer to see the issue handled "case by case"20 Mohammed Moussaoui, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, opposed using a law but favored discouraging Muslim women from wearing the full veil3

Abroad, in July 2010, hundreds of Muslims protested against the bill in Karachi, Pakistan The chief of the Pakistan-based Jamaat-e-Islami Party demanded that the UN take immediate action against France21 Nasharudin Mat Isa, leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, said that the ban had made Muslims around the world angry but stated that he hoped that it would not provoke any terrorist incidents22

Abdel Muti al-Bayyumi, a member of the council of clerics at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, applauded the ban and stated that the niqāb has no basis in Sharia He also said, "I want to send a message to Muslims in France and Europe The niqab has no basis in Islam I used to feel dismayed when I saw some of the sisters in France wearing the niqab This does not give a good impression of Islam"17 Yusuf al Qaradawi, another prominent Egyptian Islamic scholar, stated that in his view "the niqab is not obligatory" while criticizing France for violating the freedom of those Muslim women who hold the view that it is and criticizing France in that "they allow other women to freely dress in a revealing and provocative manner"23

Hamza Yusuf criticized the French government for the ban, writing:

While I am personally opposed to the face veil, it is a legitimate, if minority opinion, in the Islamic legal tradition for a woman to wear one Most women who wear it believe they are following God’s injunction and not their husband’s French laicism seems as fundamentalist as the very religious fanatics it wants to keep out On a trip to France a few years ago, I was shocked to see pornography openly displayed on the streets in large advertisements How odd that to unveil a woman for all to gape at is civilized, but for her to cover up to ward off gazes is a crime While the French Prime Minister sees no problem with exposing in public places a woman’s glorious nakedness, he is oddly and quite rabidly disturbed by allowing others to cover it up The sooner secular nations learn to allow people of faith to live their lives in peace, the sooner peace will flourish

— Hamza Yusuf, Pourquoi No Burqa

Amnesty International condemned the passage of the bill in the Assembly as a violation of the freedom of expression of those women who wear the burqa or hijab24 RTBF columnist François De Smet responded that this could not be considered a matter of freedom of expression or even religion, since face coverings are but a relic of tribal tradition; that it is face coverings that amount to violation of the freedom of expression, as they block the exchange of facial expressions which as Emmanuel Levinas pointed out are the basis for a moral participation in society; and that the neurotic search for purity that motivates facial coverings ultimately represents the "radical rejection of others" and conveys contempt for others who are not deemed worthy of sharing the wearer's facial expressions25

Hassen Chalghoumi, a notable imam of the mosque in Drancy near Paris who had earlier received death threats and seen his religious service interrupted by Islamists because he supported dialog with the French Jewish community, later expressed support for the ban He stated that the full facial covering "has no place in France, a country where women have been voting since 1945" and that "the burqa is a prison for women, a tool of sexist domination and Islamist indoctrination"26


The legislators provided that, once the law was declared constitutional, a six-month period for discussion and education of the affected public would follow before the law came into force In a program overseen by the Muslim women-led Ni Putes Ni Soumises, NGO representatives and social workers conducted individual and group information meetings with women in towns and suburbs with large Muslim populations The representatives reported instances of some women deciding to file complaints against their husbands once informed of their rights; of some others stating that they were waiting for the law to come into force so that it would compel their husbands to release them from wearing the veil; and of some others stopping the wearing of the facial veil outright after the information meetings While no disturbances were reported during the personal meetings with the women who could be reached, the representatives reported instances of local Islamic clerics issuing fatwās against them, of being verbally harassed, of being threatened including with implied death threats, and in one case of being physically assaulted by men In the last preparatory phase, larger meetings and public debates were organised27

Before the law entered into force, French Interior Minister Claude Guéant instructed the police to enforce the law "with tact and sensitivity", and stated that under no circumstances could force be used to remove facial coverings in public; individuals should instead be invited to show their faces to permit identification Guéant also instructed that people arrested for wearing full facial coverings should be told about the law's motivations in a spirit of education, as the law provides

Reactions to the law's introductionedit

On 9 April 2011, 61 people were arrested in Paris for holding an unauthorized demonstration against the impending law28

The law came into effect on 11 April 2011 To protest the law's introduction several veiled women protested outside Notre Dame de Paris One of the protestors, Kenza Drider, stated that she was "just expressing her freedom to be"4 The French government stated that the burqa damaged community relations29 Supporters of the bill also stated that it promoted gender equality and secularism28

Police unions said in a statement that the enforcement of the law would be "extremely difficult if not almost impossible"30 Interior Minister Claude Guéant pointed out that notwithstanding any implementation difficulties "the role of the police and gendarmerie are to ensure that the law is respected"31 In fact, there were no publicized enforcement problems at the outset The few demonstrators being arrested on the first day were brought in for discussion, as planned by the Interior Ministry and as consistent with the law's provision for citizenship education in lieu of a fine, and the first fines were imposed subsequently "without incident"31

William Langley, former chief foreign correspondent of the Daily Mail and a commentator for the Telegraph, noted that beside support across the political spectrum, "the public overwhelmingly sees the ban as right for France, beneficial to its Muslim communities and justified", and concluded that the ban and its application "demonstrate that France has a more sophisticated concept of tolerance than Britain"32

Five months after the law was introduced, the police had noted 100 incidents of women being stopped under the law None of them led to a punishment, though "fewer than 10" were going through the courts Some police have wrongly given on-the-spot fines, which were later annulled Others appear to ignore women in niqab walking down the street, perhaps because they feel they have more important crimes to be stopping The French Collective against Islamophobia reported "an explosion" in the number of physical attacks on women wearing the niqab Hind Ahmas, a protester against the law who had been twice arrested for wearing a niqab said, "My quality of life has seriously deteriorated since the ban In my head, I have to prepare for war every time I step outside, prepare to come up against people who want to put a bullet in my head The politicians claimed they were liberating us; what they've done is to exclude us from the social sphere Before this law, I never asked myself whether I'd be able to make it to a cafe or collect documents from a town hall One politician in favour of the ban said niqabs were 'walking prisons' Well, that's exactly where we've been stuck by this law" Kenza Drider, another protester against the law, said she lives in fear of attack "I'm insulted about three to four times a day Most say, 'Go home'; some say, 'We'll kill you' One said: 'We'll do to you what we did to the Jews' I feel that I now know what Jewish women went through before the Nazi roundups in France When they went out in the street they were identified, singled out, they were vilified Now that's happening to us"33

On 22 September 2011, Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali became the first women to be fined under the burqa ban after having been arrested in May for attempting to deliver an almond cake to the mayor of Meaux a supporter of the ban whilst wearing niqabs the French word for fine, amende, is similar in sound to almond They were fined 120 and 80 Euros Hind Ahmas announced her intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights Kenza Drider announced her intention to run for the presidency whilst wearing a niqab34

On 12 December 2011, Hind Ahmas was ordered to attend a 15-day French citizenship course by another court for having worn a niqab at a protest outside the Elysee Palace on April 11 She was not allowed into the court as she refused to remove her niqab She announced that she was not going to attend the course, nor remove her niqab and again declared that the law was unconstitutional and reiterated her intention to take it to the European Court of Human Rights Prosecutors responded to the press that she could face two years in prison and a fine of up to 32,000 Euros35 Some balaclava-wearing sympathisers of Pussy Riot were arrested in Marseille in August 2012 for being in breach of the ban36

Some law enforcement officers have complained of being attacked, physically while enforcing the law and then afterward in the media's portrayal3738 In July 2013, a husband allegedly attempted to strangle a police officer during a check of an entirely-veiled woman in Trappes and the next night a group of 250 youths threw projectiles at a police station394041 Clashes continued the following night and spread to Élancourt and Guyancourt42

See alsoedit

  • France portal
  • Islam portal
  • Law portal
  • Anti-mask laws
  • Freedom of religion in France
  • French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools
  • France debate over veils
  • Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France
  • Human rights in France
  • Swiss ban on minarets
  • Saudi ban on churches
  • Hijab by country
  • Islamic dress in Europe

External linksedit

  • Full text of the law in French


  1. ^ "LOI n° 2010-1192 du 11 octobre 2010 interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public" in French Legifrance Retrieved 24 August 2016 
  2. ^ a b c Allen, Peter 14 September 2010 "France's Senate backs National Assembly and bans women from wearing the burka in public" Daily Mail Associated Newspapers Ltd Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  3. ^ a b c d e Erlanger, Steven 13 July 2010 "Parliament Moves France Closer to a Ban on Facial Veils" The New York Times Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  4. ^ a b "Arrests As France Enforces Veil Ban" Sky News 11 April 2011 Retrieved 11 April 2011 
  5. ^ a b "French senate approves burqa ban" CNN 14 September 2010 Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  6. ^ a b c d "Texte adopté n° 524 – Projet de loi interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public" wwwassemblee-nationalefr Retrieved 15 September 2010 
  7. ^ a b "French Senate approves 'Burka ban'" The Telegraph 14 September 2010 
  8. ^ a b c d e "French Senate votes to ban Islamic full veil in public" BBC 14 September 2010 Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  9. ^ France’s face veil ban to take effect next month
  10. ^ Willsher, Kim 1 July 2014 "France's burqa ban upheld by human rights court" The Guardian Retrieved 1 July 2014 
  11. ^ "French Senate bans burka Bill awaits President Nicolas Sarkozy's signature" CBC News Radio Canada 14 September 2010 Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  12. ^ Shahid, Aliyah 14 September 2010 "French Senate bans burka Bill awaits President Nicolas Sarkozy's signature" New York Daily News Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  13. ^ "France" Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs Archived from the original on 6 February 2011 Retrieved 2011-12-14  See drop-down essay on "Contemporary Affairs"
  14. ^ dead linkDumoulin, Frederic 14 September 2010 "French parliament adopts ban on full-face veil" Agence France-Presse Retrieved 14 September 2010 
  15. ^ Belgium ban burqa-type dress; Law cites public security, securing emancipation of women
  16. ^ Jamet, Constance 15 June 2010 "Législation sur la burqa : ce qui se fait ailleurs en Europe" Le Figaro in French Retrieved 24 March 2011 
  17. ^ a b "Egypt Al-Azhar scholar supports French niqab ban" Agence France-Presse 15 September 2010 Retrieved 16 September 2010 
  18. ^ George, Rose 17 July 2006 "Ghetto warrior" The Guardian London Retrieved 5 May 2010 
  19. ^ "French burqa ban clears last legal obstacle" CNN 7 October 2010 Retrieved 7 October 2010 
  20. ^ Testimony at the mission d’information sur la pratique du port du voile intégral sur le territoire national, 8 October 2009, retrieved 24 March 2011 
  21. ^ "Hundreds in Pakistan protest France's burqa ban" Associated Press 19 July 2010 Retrieved 15 September 2010 
  22. ^ Kennedy, Dana "Muslim World at Odds Over French Burqa Ban" AOL News Retrieved 16 September 2010 
  23. ^ Ahmed El-Gharbawy 18 October 2011 "Sheikh Qaradawi's First Interview with Onislamnet" website Retrieved 13 March 2011 
  24. ^ "Burqa ban passes French lower house overwhelmingly" CNN 13 July 2010 Retrieved 15 September 2010 
  25. ^ "Voile intégral : la névrose de la pureté" RTBF 26 April 2011 Retrieved 23 May 2011 
  26. ^ "Paris imam backs France's burqa ban" The Telegraph 22 January 2010 Retrieved 23 May 2011 
  27. ^ Menegaux, Charlotte 23 March 2011, "Niqab : l'audacieux pari des "ambassadrices de la laïcité"", Le Figaro, retrieved 24 March 2011 
  28. ^ a b "Police arrest veiled women at 'burqa ban' protest" France24 11 April 2011 Retrieved 11 April 2011 
  29. ^ "Women in face veils detained as France enforces ban" BBC 11 April 2011 Retrieved 11 April 2011 
  30. ^ Kim Willsher 12 April 2011 "Women detained at veil protest in France" Los Angeles Times 
  31. ^ a b "Voile intégral : une amende de 150 euros pour une femme des Mureaux" Ouest France 12 April 2011 
  32. ^ "France’s burka ban is a victory for tolerance" The Daily Telegraph 11 April 2011 
  33. ^ "France's burqa ban: women are 'effectively under house arrest'" Guardian 19 September 2011 Retrieved 5 March 2012 
  34. ^ "Burka ban: French women fined for wearing full-face veil" Daily Telegraph 22 September 2011 Retrieved 5 March 2012 
  35. ^ "French mother, 32, set to become first woman to be jailed for wearing banned Islamic veil" Daily Mail 14 December 2011 Retrieved 5 March 2012 
  36. ^ Pro-Pussy Riot demonstrators arrested in Marseille
  37. ^ Décugis, Jean-Michel; Zemouri, Aziz 24 July 2013 "EXCLUSIF Trappes : "Les policiers se sentent stigmatisés"" Trappes: "Police officers feel stigmatized" Le Point in French 
  38. ^ "Trappes : le policier blessé et mis en cause se porte partie civile" Trappes: The police offer who was injured and blamed files a civil case Figaro in French 24 July 2013 
  39. ^ "Trappes : le mari de la femme voilée a tenté d'étrangler un policier" Trappes: The husband of a veiled woman attempted to stranger a police officer Le Point in French 20 July 2013 
  40. ^ "Six held over violence in France after police check veiled woman" Reuters 20 July 2013 
  41. ^ Charlton, Angela; Garriga, Nicolas 21 July 2013 "French police, youths clash after veil incidentj" Associated Press Yahoo News 
  42. ^ "France veil row sparks Trappes unrest" BBC News 21 July 2013 

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