French authorities accused of covering up Jew’s slaying by Muslim neighbor

A European Parliament member and prominent French intellectuals protested the omission of anti-Semitism from a draft indictment of a Muslim for the murder of his Jewish neighbor.

Frédérique Ries, a lawmaker from Belgium, on Thursday criticized French authorities’ handling of the investigation into the April 4 incident, in which Sarah Halimi was tortured and thrown out of her third-story apartment to her death, allegedly by Kobili Traore, who lived in her building.

“French authorities have treated her murder with icy silence,” Ries, who is Jewish, said in reference to the fact that Traore, who had no history of mental illness, was placed at a psychiatric institution and has not been charged with a hate crime despite evidence suggesting he killed Halimi because she was Jewish.

In a voice recording of the incident, Traore is heard shouting “Allahu akbar,” calling Sarah “Satan” and calmly praying after her killing, according to reports.

17 French intellectuals published a scathing criticism of the handling of the incident by authorities and the media.

“Everything about this crime suggests there is an ongoing denial of reality” by authorities, the intellectuals wrote, citing also testimonies of neighbors who said Traore had called Halimi a “dirty Jew” to her face and called her relatives “dirty Jews” as well in the past.

Many French Jews believe authorities covered up Halimi’s alleged murder to prevent it from becoming fodder for the divisive presidential campaign.

 

EU’s highest Court rules on headscarf at work

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been asked to make a decision on two cases related to the wearing of religious signs at work. In both cases, a French and a Belgian one, the headscarf was the bone of contention. The CJEU finally issued a joint judgment this tuesday.

Two stories, one common issue

The Belgian Samira Achbita did not wear a headscarf in 2003 when she started to work as a receptionist for the security company G4S. In 2006, she declared to her employer that she intended to start wearing it… She was then dismissed.

As for the French Asma Bougnaoui, she started working as a design engineer for the IT consultancy firm Micropole in 2008. At this time, she already had a headscarf on. One day, a customer of the company complained about that. This complaint was transmitted by the company to Mrs Bougnaoui, who chose to reject it and refused to remove her headscarf… She was also dismissed.

National Courts from Belgium and France have asked the ECJ to give a ruling on these cases. Though the stories slightly differ, the main issue was to know if a company was justified to dismiss an employee for wearing a headscarf or if this constituted a case of discrimination.

The Court’s decision

For EU’s highest Court, forbidding headscarf on the workplace does not constitute a direct discriminatory act as long as the internal rule of the company proscribes any visible political, philosophical or religious sign and if this policy is justified by an essential occupational requirement:

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination. However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination”.

Hence, the Court stated in favor of the company in the Belgian case, arguing that the company was following its genuine policy of “image neutrality”. As for the French case however, the Court stated that the complainant had indeed been discriminated against, since the demand to remove the headscarf only followed the complaint from a customer and not a consistent policy of neutrality at work.

What are the implications of this ruling?

Right wing and far right personalities welcome this ruling as a victory, since this now allows companies to ban the headscarf in the workplace, as we can see for instance from Gilbert Collard’s tweet , a French MP working for Marine le Pen : “Even the CJEU votes for Marine”. However, one must remember that this long awaited judgment also demands the prohibiting of religious signs to be stated and justified by a consistent internal rule of the company. The prohibition of religious signs is thus limited and must happen only under certain specific conditions :

“Such indirect discrimination may be objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality, provided that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary”.

The diverging views on the ruling of the CJEU 

For the supporters of the ruling, the issue of religious signs at work needed to be clarified and employers and human resources now have a clearer frame to deal with religious signs at work. In its ruling, the Court judged in favor of the company when a neutral image was part of its objective “identity”, but in favor of the complainant when the demand to remove the headscarf was the result of a subjective process, not connected to an essential occupational requirement.

However, for the critics of this ruling, the CJEU now opens the way to the implementation of more restrictive internal rules in private companies. It gives the latter more power to decide on their employees’ outfit, on the subjective basis of the “image” of the company. Also, and even though the ruling does not specifically concern Muslims, it seems to endorse a general European tendency to target Muslim believers’ visibility in the public space and may de facto contribute to exclude them from the job market.

By Farida Belkacem

Sources :

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-03/cp170030en.pdf

Valls attacks New York Times report on burkini ban

The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has accused the New York Times of painting an “unacceptable” picture of his country with an article about discrimination against Muslim women.

The report was prompted by the debate over controversial bans on Islamic swimsuits in many French Riviera towns. Valls said such bans were part of a “fight for the freedom of women”.

The paper said it stood by the article. Some Muslims say they are being targeted unfairly over burkinis.

An increasing number of court rulings have rejected bans on the full-body swimsuit, including in Nice, where an attack on 14 July killed 84 people during Bastille Day celebrations.

Some of the women quoted by the NYT said the clothing was a chance for them to take part in activities, such as going to the beach, in line with their religious beliefs.

Many also complained of an alleged discrimination by non-Muslims exacerbated by the recent attacks in France and Belgium, and of restrictions in wearing the headscarf, banned in French public buildings.

One said: “French Muslim women would be justified to request asylum in the United States… given how many persecutions we are subjected to.”

Another talked of being “afraid of having to wear a yellow crescent on my clothes one day, like the Star of David for Jews not so long ago”.

Burkini Ban: Algerian businessman pays women’s fines

Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian entrepreneur and human rights activist, has stepped up to the plate to pay the penalty for any Muslim woman who is fined in France for wearing the burkini, a full-length swimsuit that covers the whole body except for the face, hands and feet.
“I decided to pay for all the fines of women who wear the burkini in order to guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law,” Nekkaz said.
The burkini ban at some French beaches is the most recent move by Parisian politicians to prohibit religious attire in public.
After the Charlie Hebdo and Nice attacks, Nekkaz said a few politicians took advantage of the fear of Islam, which spread within the population, to try to reduce the number of freedoms in France, which he called an “unacceptable, inadmissible and intolerable move.”
Across Europe, similar bans are taking form, as the tide shifts toward more regulations in favor of restricting the traditional Islamic attire.
“And I don’t accept that these great countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands and now Germany, take advantage of this fear of Islam to reduce the number of personal freedoms,” Nekkaz said.

A Closer Look at Brussels Offers a More Nuanced View of Radicalization

BRUSSELS — Around the world, this city of great, if often ramshackle, charm has become Exhibit A in the case against immigration, particularly when it involves large numbers of Muslims.

Donald J. Trump called the Belgian capital “a hellhole,” while Lubomir Zaoralek, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, recently cited the city to explain why his and other Eastern European countries had steadfastly resisted a plan by the European Union to spread Syrian and other Muslim refugees around the Continent under a quota system.

“All the people in the Czech Republic and in other countries see what happened in Molenbeek,” he told a security conference in Slovakia over the weekend, referring to the Brussels borough where many of those involved in the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 and in Brussels on March 22 grew up.

A closer look at what has happened in Molenbeek and other heavily immigrant parts of Brussels, however, provides a far more nuanced picture than just a generation of badly integrated young Muslim immigrants running amok. In some ways, it debunks the view that Islam is a one-size-fits-all faith that fuels terrorism.

It is true that all those so far identified in connection with the Paris and Brussels carnage were young Muslims from immigrant families. But a more significant marker than their faith was their shared origin in North Africa, especially Morocco. None was from Brussels’ large community of Turks, who share the same religion and the same discrimination, as well as other hardships that are often cited as a root cause of jihadist rage against the West.

Brussels first became a magnet for Muslim immigrants in the 1960s, when the Belgian government eagerly invited workers from Morocco and Turkey to move to Belgium to take jobs in factories and mines. The two countries were regarded as generally pro-Western and full of poor and hard-working people eager for jobs in Europe, unlike many developing nations that at the time were frothing with rage at European colonialism and racked by conflict.

“You wish to come and work in Belgium? We Belgians are happy that you are coming to bring to our country the support of your strength and your intelligence,” read a message from the minister of labor posted at Belgium’s embassy and consulates in Morocco in 1964. Similar notices went up a year later in Turkey.

Together, Belgians of Moroccan and Turkish origin today account for the vast majority of the capital city’s Muslim population, and both groups are heir to a fairly relaxed form of Islam that has none of the reactionary dogmatism of Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states.

So how was it that some Moroccans became so angry, alienated and, in some cases, radicalized? “There is a malaise within the community of Moroccan origin,” the mayor of Molenbeek, Françoise Schepmans, said, dismissing arguments that terrorism is a byproduct of religious faith.

Left-wing politicians and community leaders, she said, had missed and amplified the trouble brewing in Molenbeek by treating young Belgian-Moroccans as victims who had no chance of succeeding. “There is a strong sentiment of victimhood,” she said, noting that “Turks have also endured discrimination but there is a force in their community.”

Much of this force comes from the Turkish state, which controls many of the mosques attended by Belgian-Turks and keeps a close eye on potentially wayward elements in the community through a well-established network of local leaders and imams who are trained in Turkey and then sent to Belgium at the government’s expense.

At a Turkish mosque in Molenbeek run by Diyanet, Turkey’s state-controlled religious affairs agency, the imam, who speaks only Turkish, expressed revulsion at the March attacks in Brussels and said that he and his worshipers never tolerate extremist views. He stressed that his congregants respect and follow the law.

Worshipers at a nearby Moroccan mosque angrily shooed away reporters, accusing them of fanning “Islamophobia” and stigmatizing their neighborhood as a haven of jihadists.

In contrast to Belgium’s Turks, the Moroccan community is far more divided and resistant to authority, in part because many of the early immigrants came from the Rif, a rebellious Berber-speaking region often at odds with the ruling monarchy in Morocco. “When emigration to Europe started, the king was happy to get rid of these people,” said Bachir M’Rabet, a youth worker of Moroccan descent in Molenbeek.

Another source of anger in his community, he added, is that many Turks often speak poor French and no Dutch, Belgium’s two main languages, and cling to their Turkish identity, while most Moroccans speak fluent French and aspire to be accepted fully as Belgians. This, he said, means that many Moroccans feel discrimination more acutely and, at least in the case of young men on the margins, tend to view even minor slights as proof that the entire system is against them.

Philippe Moureaux, who served for two decades as Molenbeek’s mayor, described this as “the paradox of integration.” A less-integrated Turkish community has resisted the promise of redemption through jihad offered by radical zealots. Yet, a Moroccan community that is more at home in French-speaking Brussels has seen some of its young fall prey to recruiters like Khalid Zerkani, a Moroccan-born petty criminal who became the Islamic State’s point man in Molenbeek.

“The Turks suffer much less from an identity crisis,” Mr. Moureaux said. “They are proud to be Turks and are much less tempted by extremism.”

Suspicion of and hostility toward authority, particularly the police force, run so deep among some North African immigrants in Molenbeek that when the police mobilized in the area this month to prevent a group of anti-immigrant right-wing hooligans from staging a rally, local youths, mostly young men of Moroccan descent, began hurling abuse and objects at the police.

Molenbeek immigrants of Turkish or other backgrounds generally have a less hostile view of the police. A Turkish shopkeeper who runs a general store near the police station said he feared not the police but aggressive North African youths who accuse him of being a bad Muslim because he sells alcohol. He noted that the youths steal, which is also forbidden.

Emir Kir, the Belgian-Turkish mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, a heavily immigrant Brussels borough that is worse off economically than Molenbeek, said the only Turk he knew about who had tried to go to Syria was a young man who had fallen in love with a girl of Moroccan descent. He got as far as Istanbul before being sent back. “This was a love affair, not an act of extremism,” he said.

Call to arms in France amid hunt for Belgian suspect in Paris attacks

President Francois Hollande of France called on Monday for constitutional amendments to fight potential terrorists at home and for an aggressive effort to “eradicate” the Islamic State abroad.

 

His call to arms — “France is at war,” he said at the opening of his remarks to a joint session of Parliament — came as security forces in France and Belgium zeroed in on a suspect they said was the architect of the assault that killed 129 people Friday night in Paris. The suspect, a 27-year-old Belgian, has fought for the Islamic State in Syria and has been linked to other terrorist attacks.

 

Mr. Hollande spoke after the French police raided homes and other sites across the country in an effort to head off possible further attacks and as the authorities in Belgium hunted for a suspected assailant in Friday’s attacks. Mr. Hollande called for quick action by Parliament on new legislation that would give the government more flexibility to conduct police raids without a warrant and place people under house arrest. He said he would seek court advice on broader surveillance powers. And he called for amendments that would enable the state to take exceptional security measures without having to resort to the most drastic options currently in the Constitution. r. Hollande is also seeking to extend the current state of emergency for three months and let the government strip the citizenship of French natives who are convicted of terrorism and hold a second passport.

“Our democracy has prevailed over much more formidable opponents than these cowardly assassins,” Mr. Hollande said a day after France conducted airstrikes against the Syrian city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. It was the country’s most intense military strike yet against the radical group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.

 

The French leader said he would meet soon with President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an effort to settle on a united campaign to wipe out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

 

“Terrorism will not destroy the republic, because it is the republic that will destroy it,” he said. Three days after the attacks on a soccer stadium, a concert hall and numerous bars and cafes, French and Belgian security services were focused on the radical jihadist they believe was the leader of the plot, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He is among the most prominent Islamic State fighters to have come out of Belgium. A French official briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss operational details, said Mr. Abaaoud had mentioned plans to attack “a concert hall” to a French citizen who returned from Syria.

 

Mr. Abaaoud, this official said, had also been in contact with Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, one of the Paris attackers. Mr. Abaaoud also knew another attacker, Ibrahim Abdeslam; they were tried together in 2010 in Belgium for a minor offense.

 

Mr. Hollande said the attacks had been “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” The French authorities said Monday that they had conducted 168 raids across the country in an effort to root out possible terrorist threats. The raids extended from the Paris region to the major cities of Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse, they said. They also said they had arrested 23 people and detained 104 others under house arrest.

 

But a Frenchman believed to be involved in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, 26, a brother of Ibrahim Abdeslam, remained at large, eluding a series of raids conducted by the authorities in Molenbeek, the working-class Brussels neighborhood where the brothers lived.

 

A third brother, Mohamed, and four other men who had been detained in Belgium were released on Monday. At a news conference in Brussels, Mohamed said he did not know Salah’s whereabouts and added, “My parents are under shock and have not yet grasped what has happened.” The man believed to be the architect of the plot, Mr. Abaaoud, who traveled to Syria last year and even persuaded his 13-year-old brother to join him there, is from the same neighborhood, Molenbeek, as the Abdeslam brothers. Mr. Abaaoud was already a suspect, according to officials and local news reports, in a failed terrorist plot in Belgium in January and an attempt in August to gun down passengers on a high-speed train to Paris from Brussels. An intelligence official said the authorities feared he might be in Europe.

 

In Washington, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said some American officials suspected that Mr. Abaaoud might still be in Syria. Mr. Abaaoud was most likely part of an Islamic State cell that has developed over the past year to help plan, organize and execute terrorist attacks in Europe, particularly in France, Mr. Schiff said in a telephone interview.

 

The cell is believed to be led by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who serves as an official spokesman for the Islamic State, a Defense Department official said Monday.

Mr. Schiff warned that much was still unknown about how much of the plot had been directed from Syria and how much autonomy had been left to conspirators.

Continue reading the main story

 

At noon, France observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the attack, which wounded about 350 people, in addition to the 129 killed. The Métro and cars stopped and crowds gathered at a makeshift memorial at the Place de la République and at the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Hollande stood with students at the Sorbonne. Many recited the national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” after the moment passed. In other cities — Delhi; Doha, Qatar; and Dublin — crowds gathered at French embassies to pay their respects.

As France observed its second of three days of national mourning, the authorities in France and Belgium raced to track down suspects and chase leads.

 

At one house in the Rhône department in the southeast, around Lyon, the police found a Kalashnikov rifle, three pistols, ammunition and bulletproof vests. Officers then obtained a warrant to search the home of the parents of a man who lived in the house, where they found several automatic pistols, ammunition, police armbands, military clothing and a rocket launcher.

 

Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised to keep up the search. “We are using all the possibilities given to us by the state of emergency, that is to say administrative raids, 24 hours a day,” Mr. Valls said. He vowed to keep intense pressure on “radical Islamism, Salafist groups, all those who preach hatred of the Republic.” The authorities also confirmed on Monday that one of the attackers entered Europe through Greece on a Syrian passport last month, posing as a migrant. The man was identified on his passport — found at the soccer stadium north of Paris where he blew himself up Friday night — as Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, a native of Idlib, Syria. The holder of the passport passed through the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3 and the Serbian border town of Presovo on Oct. 7, according to Greek and Serbian officials. It remained unclear whether the passport was authentic.

 

All told, at least four French citizens were among the seven attackers: Ibrahim Abdeslam; Mr. Mostefaï, who met with the man suspected of planning the attacks; and two men identified on Monday as Samy Amimour, 28, a Paris native who lived in the suburb of Drancy, and Bilal Hadfi, 20, who lived in Brussels.

 

Mr. Amimour was known to the French authorities, having been charged in October 2012 with terrorist conspiracy, according to the authorities. He was placed under judicial supervision but violated the terms of that supervision in 2013, prompting the authorities to put out an international arrest warrant. Last December, the French newspaper Le Monde interviewed Mr. Amimour’s father — it did not identify him by name at the time — who had gone to Syria to try to bring back his son. Three members of the Amimour family were detained on Monday.

 

Turkey confirmed on Monday that Mr. Mostefaï, 29, entered Turkey in 2013, but it said that “there is no record of him leaving the country.”

 

A Turkish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the government flagged Mr. Mostefaï twice — in December and in June — but that “we have, however, not heard back from France on the matter.”

 

He continued, “It was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received an information request about Ismaël Omar Mostefaï from France.” The official added that “this is not a time to play the blame game,” but that governments needed to do better at sharing intelligence to prevent terrorism. The United States has provided logistical support for the French airstrikes in Syria, but Mr. Obama on Monday again ruled out a ground intervention.

 

“Let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria,” he said at a gathering of leaders of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market economies in Antalya, Turkey. “What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps?”

 

Elsewhere in Europe, the authorities tightened security. Britain announced Monday that it would pay for an additional 1,900 intelligence officers, and review aviation security.

In Washington, John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said Monday that the Paris attacks and the crash of a Russian jet over the Sinai Peninsula bore the “hallmarks” of the Islamic State.

 

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan called the group an “association of murderous sociopaths” that is “not going to content itself with violence inside the Syrian and Iraqi borders.”

 

Wading into the debate over surveillance, privacy and encryption, Mr. Brennan said he hoped the Paris attacks would be a “wake-up call,” adding that “hand-wringing” had weakened the ability of Western intelligence services to prevent attacks.

 

Six Britons arrested in Belgium as UK hate preachers linked to Paris attacks mastermind

Six Pakistani-born British men have been arrested in Belgium after being spotted in old ambulances near Brussels while the capital was in lock down amid fears of a Paris-style terror attack.

A heavily-armed anti-terror unit swooped on the group near a petrol station which is regularly used by Salah Abdeslam – the fugitive terrorist still at large eight days after 130 people were killed in the French capital. Six armoured trucks and a police car rushed in after the old ambulances were parked in a rest area beside the E411 highway in Bierges, south-east of Brussels, at around 2pm local time on Saturday. One of the men is understood to be known to British police who are assisting Belgian authorities.

Police are investigating any link to Islamic State (ISIS) after it was revealed using old ambulances was a hallmark cover tactic used by the terror group.

The British men were said to be co-operating with detectives and have been fingerprinted to check for possible matching.  The arrests came as it was revealed the alleged mastermind behind the Paris attacks was part of an extremist network linked to at least six hate preachers from Britain.

Paris ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud – who was killed in an anti-terror raid by French authorities in Saint-Denis after the atrocities in the French capital on November 13 – was associated with a banned terrorist group called Sharia4Belgium.  The militant group, which has sent more than 50 Belgian fighters to join ISIS in Syria, was founded by in 2010 by Fouad Belkacem after he travelled to London to seek inspiration from a radical British cleric. Members of the group also approached Omar Bakri Muhammad, the former London-based hate preacher who was banned from Britain in 2005, while he was living in exile in Lebanon to help gain access to jihadis in Syria.

Investigations into Dutch Moroccan Criminal Traffic

July 31, 2014

Hundreds of Dutch Moroccan youths are reported to be involved in a string of robberies and at least six gangland killings in the Netherlands and Belgium, according to Volkskrant newspaper, which bases its claims on police investigations into the killings. According to the reports, robberies occur in the Netherlands and then the perpetrators travel to Morocco, which does not deport its nationals.

Dutch public prosecution has an agreement with the Moroccan authorities to facilitate prosecution of those involved in the Netherlands under Moroccan law.  The agreement was signed in 2012 under the responsibilities of the justice ministry. Last week, Hamza B, suspected of a double shooting in Amsterdam in December 2012, became the first to go on trial in Morocco under the new agreement.

Update: Coverage of Dutch Citizens’ Traveling to Fight in Syria

July 7, 2014

The head of the Hague-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has recommended that the Dutch security service provide more information to local authorities and civil servants, increasing transparency to build trust within families and with authorities. He discourages the use of “tough talk” from politicians and families for its potential to intensify matters. The recommendations come as mayors of eight Dutch cities and three Belgian cities meet with the Dutch counter-terrorism service to discuss how to deal with citizens returning from Syria.

Also in the news, the Mayor of the Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, announced that seven people from the city have been killed in Syria. 33 people have travelled to Syria from the city so far: of them six have returned, four have been arrested, three minors have been prevented from travel and three passports have been confiscated.

And the Volkskrant has updated coverage on the 15 year old girl from the Netherlands who was stopped in Germany last month on her way to Syria, reporting she was one of four or five minors from the country planning to make the trip together. She is currently being questioned – police spokesman Thomas Aling notes, “She is not in a cell and she is not a suspect. She is a witness and has been given a lawyer via the child protection council.”

European Human Rights Court Upholds France’s Burqa Ban

July 1, 2014

On Tuesday, July 1 the European Court of Human Rights voted, by a large majority, to uphold France’s ban of the full veil. A young Frenchwoman challenged the law that was instituted in 2010 and which calls for a 150-euro fine for anyone wearing the full veil in public. The decision is largely viewed as a triumph for France and Belgium, which are the only two countries in Europe to institute such legislation. The victory gives other countries the right to enact similar laws.

The French government had argued that the ban was in the interest of public safety and in support of women who may be forced to wear the full veil. However, many critics contend that the law is discriminatory and targets Muslims and religious minorities, violating the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. In response to the ruling Elsa Ray, spokeswoman for the Muslim advocacy group CCIF argued, “Some people now feel entitled to attack women wearing the veil even though the infringement is no more severe than, say, a parking ticket.”

The law was challenged by a woman only identified by her initials, S.A.S., who decided to wear either a niqab or a burqa without any pressure from her family. S.A.S. contends that the French ban constituted a violation of her religious freedom, and could potentially lead to “discrimination and harassment.”

The French government argued, “showing one’s face in public was one of the ‘minimum requirements of life in society.’” The court decided that the ban cannot be justified as a public safety measure or as a protector of women’s rights, but that “the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face was perceived by the respondent state as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which made living together easier.”

The highly contentious decision, which cannot be appealed, has already sparked protests from several groups. James Goldstone, executive director of the Open Society Justice initiative, filed a third-party intervention on the ruling and said, “Coming at a time when hostility to ethnic and religious minorities is on the rise in many parts of Europe, the court’s decision is an unfortunate missed opportunity to reaffirm the importance of equal treatment for all and the fundamental right to religious belief and expression.” He continued, “The majority has failed adequately to protect the rights of many women who wish to express themselves by what they wear.”

However, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry confirmed that the government viewed the ruling as a success because it “reflected France’s commitment to gender equality.”