• France edition
 
France forced to defend ban on Islamic veil

France forced to defend ban on Islamic veil

Published: 22 Jul 2013 14:17 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jul 2013 14:17 GMT+02:00

France's interior minister moved to defend the country's controversial ban on full-face veils after it triggered yet another bout of unrest outside Paris, which he said had now been "contained".

The weekend violence in the suburb of Trappes erupted after a man was detained for allegedly attacking a police officer who had stopped his wife over her full-face veil -- a practice that is banned in France, outraging many in the Muslim community.

"The law banning the full-face veil is a law for women... It is not for a second a law against Islam," Manuel Valls told RTL radio.

"It is a law against practices that have nothing to do with our traditions and our values, and the police did their work perfectly well."

France, home to Europe's largest Muslim population - estimated at 5 million - has banned women from wearing full-face veils in public since April 2011, and authorities say about 300 women were caught breaking the law in the first year it was in force.

Violations are punishable by a fine of up to €150 ($200) or mandatory citizenship training, and the ban has caused huge resentment and has led to flare-ups of violence.

It has also led to landmark court cases, such as that of the nursery assistant who was sacked for refusing to remove her Islamic head scarf. The decision was later annulled by an appeal court, on the grounds of religious "discrimination". 

There have also been cases, albeit rare, of citizens taking vigilante action against Muslim women for wearing veils in public. Recently it was reported that a pregnant Muslim woman lost her baby after being kicked in the midriff by one such vigilante.

Later on Monday French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the weekend violence was "unacceptable" and called on everyone to respect the law.

Speaking in Grenoble, Ayrault said: "We are a state of law in a republic and the law must be respected by all... it is the role of the police and the role of justice to enforce it. Laws cannot simply be enforced by waving a magic wand."

'Police treated us like animals'

French prosecutors say the husband of the Muslim woman who was stopped last week allegedly attacked and tried to strangle the officer.

Valls said it was "unacceptable that someone would want to avoid being stopped and worse still attack the police". Valls said he had no doubt that the police maintained a respectful attitude during the stop.

But in a statement released on Monday, the man's lawyer denied the allegation, saying it was "false" without elaborating.

The man, identified as Mickael, was released from custody on Saturday and is due to appear before a court in September.

France's Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) has denounced the "strong arm" action of the police, which they said was "violent and provocative".

On its website CCIF published a statement made by the woman in which she details her version of events when police pulled her aside.

The statement, which was published in both French and English reads: "The policeman grabbed me by the head of my veil and dragged me with a dreadful strength to press me on the hood of the car, while yelling: “You’re talking to me?? You’re talking to me??”

"I turned and I saw my husband held on the ground by two policemen who were putting him the handcuffs.

"Once in the police car, they yelled at us like we were animals. They threatened my husband: 'What are you gonna do now, uh! Bastard!' with their clenched fists."

"Once we arrived at the police station, people called me “a ghost” (because of the full-veil)."

In a statement on their website the CCIF added: "We ask the police forces to fulfill their mission to protect the population, without intimidation or provocation."

A similar outbreak of unrest occurred last month when authorities stopped a 25-year-old woman who was wearing a full-face veil in Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of Paris.

An angry crowd gathered and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.

Politicians blame lack of integration in France

Various politicians from France's right-wing parties have blamed the veil riots on a lack of integration and said the Socialist government has done nothing to help.

Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far right National Front party said “These kind of riots have been increasing for years, both under the UMP and Socialist governments. The French Republic has too weak a hand: due to the laxity of various governments it is losing its power struggle with the thugs, the Islamists and the ringleaders.”

Mayor of Paris's 7th arrondissement Rachida Dati said in a statement: "This violence shows lack of integration, creeping communitarianism and it’s an insult to republican authority. This explosive cocktail has been ignored by the Left for a long time.

“The right should not be exonerated from responsibility. For more than 30 years, we have abandoned all ambitious integration politics in the Republic."

And the outspoken UMP mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi tweeted: "Trappes is a territory of the French Republic and the state must make sure the laws are respected. The government must react and no longer be laxist."

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
QUIZ: Find out how French you've become
So how French do you think you are? Photo: Frenchman: Shutterstock

QUIZ: Find out how French you've become

It's impossible to be an expat in France without turning a little bit French. Take our quiz and find out where you land on the Frenchiness scale. READ  

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder
Tired of bad customer service in France? Photo: Smiling worker: Shutterstock

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder

Many Anglos have a dim view of customer service in France, but the French aren't happy either with how some shopkeepers treat them. Now a growing programme is labeling shopkeepers who you can expect to be friendly. READ  

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ
A massive fire cut broadcasting for many of France's public radio stations. Photo: France Bleu

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ

A massive fire ripped through the Paris building that houses studios for some of France's public radio stations, prompted broadcasts to be abruptly cut off. It's unclear what sparked the blaze. READ  

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France
A train and metro strike is set for Tuesday in France. Photo: AFP

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France

Commuters should brace themselves for travel chaos next week, with a train and Metro strike set for Tuesday, according to AFP. But it's not clear yet how big of an industrial action it's going to be. READ  

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl
The teenager was told last week that she must pay back €10,000 in just 15 days. Euros: Shutterstock

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl

A 13-year-old girl in western France has been told she must pay back the €10,000 that was given to her by the state after her sailor father was killed in an accident. READ  

National Front pulls in 'record membership'
The National Front party has a total of 83,000 members – the highest number in the history of the party. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

National Front pulls in 'record membership'

After a year of unprecedented electoral success, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU National Front party is attracting more members than ever before in the 42-year-old party’s history, French media has reported. READ  

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'
Both men had been motivated by the actions of Mohamed Merah, a French-Algerian national killed by French police in March 2012 after murdering seven people. Photo: AFP

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'

Morocco said on Thursday it has arrested two jihadists inspired by French terrorist Mohamed Merah who were planning to attack banks and multinational companies in France and in the North African country. READ  

Halloween in France
Paris Catacombs still draw thousands
A file picture shows skulls and bones stacked at the Catacombs of Paris. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

Paris Catacombs still draw thousands

A place of fear, legend, inspiration and exploration, Paris's skull and bone-lined Catacombs still draw thousands of visitors each year, many of whom queue for hours to explore the ghoulish burial site. READ  

French to try out high-speed Ebola test
The trial will include a prototype device unveiled last week, similar to a home pregnancy test, that may make diagnosis possible in under 15 minutes. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

French to try out high-speed Ebola test

French researchers will conduct trials with prototype Ebola diagnostic tests in Guinea in November, with results expected within weeks for speedy deployment, the head of France's Ebola task force said on Thursday. READ  

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine
A racist magazine cover has resulted in a fine for a French publication. Photo: AFP

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine

A far-right publication that compared France's justice minister, who is black, to a monkey was hit on Thursday with a €10,000 fine for making racist statements. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
National
Eight Halloween events not to miss in Paris
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se