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Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France

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Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Businessman Rachid Nekkaz. Photo: AFP
16:24 CEST+02:00
A businessman says he has been picking up the tabs for the women caught wearing burqinis on French beaches, and tells The Local he'll keep "fighting to the death" for freedom.

Even though the burqini has been banned in over a dozen coastal towns in France, there's one man who says he'll stop at nothing to ensure women can have their freedom. 

Businessman Rachid Nekkaz has created a fund to pay for any fines incurred by women wearing burqinis, and says he has already helped several women by paying their €38 fine. 

"Everyone has the right to wear or not to wear the burqini," Nekkaz told The Local.

"As long as it is not a danger to security or to anyone’s freedoms then it should not be banned in a democratic society."

Nekkaz called the burqini ban "symptomatic of the French government’s efforts to eliminate Islam, bit by bit, from the constitution", adding that the French government "wishes to battle against the visibility of Islam in France". 

Rachid Nekkaz walks with a veiled woman. Photo: AFP

His comments come as coastal hotspot Nice joins the growing list of towns to ban the full-body swimsuit.

The ban has already seen support from French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who backed mayors who choose to ban the burqini, deeming the swimwear "not compatible with the values of France and the Republic".

Nekkaz, meanwhile, said that he has contacted officials and mayors involved in imposing the ban in the hope of explaining that the law "rids women of their freedoms". 

The ban on the burqini has been met with harsh criticism and even ridicule across the world, with many countries in Europe including Italy and Germany ruling out any chance of forbidding the garment.

Nekkaz insisted that whilst he personally is against garments such as the burqini and the niqab, which he believes "make it very difficult for one to integrate into European society", he is taking a stance as someone who fights for freedom both in Europe and in the Arab world.

Photo: AFP

"I am not here to defend Islam but to defend freedom," he said. "I will fight to the death to give these women an opportunity to express themselves freely and to wear what they choose."

In 2013, Nekkaz defended the rights of a Sudanese woman who was being punished because of her decision not to wear the hijab.

In that same year, he also set up the ‘freedom defence fund’, worth €1 million, which paid the fines of women wearing the niqab after it was outlawed in France and Belgium.

By Fatima Al-Kassab
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