French woman defies burqa ban as law comes into force


AVIGNON – A young woman left the southern French city of Avignon for Paris Monday wearing a niqab to defy a ban on full-face veils in public places on the first day it came into force.
“I had been invited to take part in a television programme which I am going for and I find that today is April 11, the first day of the application of the ban,” Kenza Drider, 32, told reporters before boarding a train for Paris.
“This law infringes my European rights, I cannot but defend them that is to say my freedom to come and go and my religious freedom,” the voluntary worker said.
“This law breaches these rights,” the mother of four said.
France — home to Europe’s biggest Muslim population — is the first European country to risk stirring social tensions by putting one into practicea ban on the burqa and the niqab.
Drider’s husband Allal said: “According to this law, my wife would have to remain cloistered at home, do you find that normal?
“She has been wearing a veil for 13 years and it has not shocked anyone,” he added.
The law comes into effect at an already fraught moment in relations between the state and France’s Muslim minority, with President Nicolas Sarkozy accused of stigmatising Islam to win back votes from a resurgent far right.
French officials estimate that only around 2,000 women, from a total Muslim population estimated at between four and six million, wear the full-face veils that are traditional in parts of Arabia and South Asia.