Mosques slam politicisation of ‘burqa driver’ incident
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A grouping of Mosques in the French city of Nantes, where a local woman was fined earlier this month for driving in an Islamic veil, complained on Sunday of the media hype and politicisation of the incident.
A grouping of mosques in the western French city of Nantes issued a statement condemning the political controversy and media hype surrounding a fine levyed on a local Muslim woman earlier this month for wearing a full Islamic veil while driving.
“The Association of Nantes Mosques considers that the decision to detain and fine a woman for driving in a full Islamic veil is a judicial procedure. It should in no way be turned into a political affair or a debate on Islam,” the statement said.
“Once again, Muslims and Islam are the victims of a wave of media frenzy surrounding a minor, insignificant incident which does not represent the beliefs or lifestyle of the vast majority of Muslims living in France," the statement went on to say, adding: "We are concerned about this systematic stigmatisation, which goes against the fundamental values of the Republic."
The 31-year-old Algerian-born French woman was fined €22 for driving in a niqab, a black veil that covers the face but not the eyes. Police said the veil posed a “safety risk” when worn while driving.
The incident reached ministerial levels on Saturday, when French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux asked Immigration Minister Eric Besson to look into whether the woman’s husband could be stripped of his French nationality after an investigation revealed that he was a polygamist who was simultaneously married to four women. The man also has 12 children.
"Each of these women benefits from single-parent benefits and ... each one wears the full veil," Hortefeux said, in a letter seen by the Reuters news agency. Hortefeux also asked authorities to look into bringing fraud charges against the family for taking advantage of French social services.
The unnamed woman has contested the fine, arguing that neither her vision nor her movements are impaired by wearing the niqab.
The controversy comes just two days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged parliament to pass a ban on wearing the full Islamic veil in all public places, eschewing more moderate proposals that focused on imposing limits only within state institutions such as schools and town halls.