- Sputnik International
Get the latest news from around the world, live coverage, off-beat stories, features and analysis.

French Ban on Muslim Headscarves Not Discriminatory - Europe's Top Court

© AP Photo / Claude ParisA woman wears a niqab , as she reads a magazine in a shop, in Avignon, southern France, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010.
A woman wears a niqab , as she reads a magazine in a shop, in Avignon, southern France, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. - Sputnik International
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled the sacking of a French Muslim worker from a government hospital for wearing a religious veil, did not violate France's freedom of religion law.

A French social worker, Christiane Ebrahimian, lost her job at a psychiatric department of a hospital in Nanterre in 2000, because patients complained about her refusal to remove her Muslim veil.

This was before France banned the wearing of 'conspicuous religious symbols' in 2004, including the Muslim face veil, known as the niqab, which covers the head and face, leaving the area around the eyes visible.

However, Ebrahimian challenged the decision. She lost her legal battle in France's Administrative Court in 2002, and now, at the highest court of appeal in Europe.

There is an estimated five million Muslims living in France. French officials insist that the number of women who do want to wear a religious veil in public is a small fraction of this, and so few are affected by the ban.

The court's decision this week is perhaps unsurprising, considering it also upheld France's 2010 ban on anyone covering their face in public. 

A woman passes by a campaign poster of the far-right Swiss People's Party depicting a woman wearing a burqa against a background of a Swiss flag upon which several minarets resembling missiles on October 26, 2009 at the central station in Zurich. - Sputnik International
Offenders Face $10,000 Fines as Burka Banned in Swiss Region of Ticino

Whilst the legislation covers hoods and balaclavas, it was widely seen as targeting the burka, the most concealing of Muslim religious coverings for women, hiding the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

The European judges decided that the French authorities' goal of preserving a social idea of "living together" was a "legitimate aim."

Many French people believe such coverings of a woman's identity are an affront to the ideals of French secularism.

Whilst pressing for the ban in 2009, former President Nicolas Sarkozy said:

"I want to say solemnly, the burka is not welcome in France. In our country, we can't accept women prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity. That's not our idea of freedom."

However, some Muslim women say that the ban infringes on their right to practice their religion, and restricts their right to choose.

Despite this, similar legislation is now spreading around Europe. Belgium banned the burka in 2011 and this week, so did the Ticino region in Switzerland. Women there now face severe fines of up to US$9,800 (€9,200) for wearing the veil in public.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала