From On Islam.Net
LONDON – A French Muslim couple living in Britain are to challenge France’s ban on full-face covering at the European Court of Human Rights, saying the ban has driven them out of their homeland.
“The case clearly is of importance to my clients,” lawyer Robina Shah, of the Immigration Advisory Service in Birmingham, told Agnce-France Presse (AFP) on Thursday, June 9.
“As a result of the ban they have had to leave their country of nationality, as the ban restricts their freedom of choice, and that of their daughters.”
The couple, who have chosen to remain anonymous, lodged an application at the Strasbourg court to challenge the French government over the ban on wearing face-veil or niqab.
Shah said her clients, who live in the West Midland with their two children, don’t want to reveal their identity because of the “considerable hostility” in Britain and France to Muslim women wearing the full veil in public.
The couple say the ban restricts their right to free movement across the EU, according to documents sent to the court.
The wife is seeking £10,000 (11,200 euros, $16,400) in damages for the alleged human rights breach posed by the ban, which the couple say is “unnecessary, disproportionate and unlawful.”
France became the first European country to ban face-veil – burqa or niqab – after a law banning the Muslim outfit took into force in April.
Offenders would be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class.
People who force women to wear a face-veil risk up to a year in prison and a fine of $41,000, the law states.
It is not the first time that France sets a controversial law against a Muslim outfit.
In 2004, France banned hijab in schools and public places, with many European countries following suit.
France is home to some 5-6 million Muslims, the biggest Muslim minority in Europe.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil, or niqab, but believe that it is up to women to decide whether to cover her face.
Dreaming of returning home, the couple opted for taking their government to court.
The documents sent to Strasbourg say the couple want to “reside and work in France” but the ban means “they have considerable reservations about living there on a permanent basis.”
The principal applicant is the husband who “expects and instructs” his wife to wear the veil. Yet, he could face prosecution under French law because he will just admit that.
Yet, the wife, the second applicant in the case, is not forced by her husband to wear the niqab, but she “respects and follows” her husband’s instructions of her own free will, the Strasbourg court is being told.
She says she personally likes to cover up “on a regular basis in keeping with her faith”.
The court is being told that the wife wears the niqab also because “she feels at inner peace with herself and her surroundings and is cocooned from the outer world”.
Her lawyers argue Muslim women in France are “not able to exercise their rights free from coercion, harassment and discrimination.”
“The applicants, as French nationals exercising EU rights to free movement in the UK, have no alternative remedy other than an application to the (European) court,” say the lawyers.