The case of a French Muslim woman fined for driving while wearing a full-face veil — a garment the government wants to ban in public — raised a furore Friday over human rights and led a minister to challenge her husband’s status in France.
A lawyer for the 31-year-old woman accused police in the western city of Nantes of violating her human rights when they stopped and fined her 22 euros (29 US dollars) on the grounds that her niqab — an Islamic veil with a slit for the eyes — restricted her view so she could not drive safely.
Lawyer Jean-Michel Pollono argued that the fine was “not justified on road safety grounds and constitutes a breach of human and women’s rights.”
He insisted his client could “move freely” and “her field of vision was in no way obstructed.” He added that “the field of vision of a motorcycle rider wearing a helmet is more restricted.”
The dress of Muslim women took centre stage in French politics Wednesday when President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government said it would push ahead with a ban on wearing a full-face veil in public, despite a warning from state judicial experts that such a law could be unconstitutional.
The Nantes incident took on another political dimension when France’s interior minister, Brice Hortefeux, wrote to ask his colleague Eric Besson in immigration to look into the woman’s husband, who he alleged may belong to a radical group and may be a polygamist with four wives and 12 children.
According to Hortefeux, the husband was born in Algeria and acquired French nationality by marrying the woman in 1999.
“I would appreciate your looking into these matters which, if the facts are confirmed, could lead to the individual losing his French nationality,” Hortefeux wrote.
June 9, 2010: French Muslim ‘polygamist’ charged with welfare fraud