Fighting France’s burka ban

The World

This article was originally covered by PRI’s The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

People donning burkas in France may soon risk incurring a 150 Euro fine, the equivilant of about $190. Rachid Nekkaz and his wife Cecile Le Roux think that’s unfair. Nekkaz is a wealthy real estate mogul and a Muslim. Le Roux is a Christian. “We don’t believe in the burka,” Le Roux told PRI’s The World. “However, what I do believe is that personal freedom is sacred in a democratic, Western country.”

The couple has found a creative way to attack the law: by raising money to help people pay the fines. “I saw that the weakness of the legislation was the 150 Euro fine,” Nekkaz said. “I asked myself and my wife, ‘can we pay it?’ The answer was yes. We can pay it.”

The couple has already put up $300,000 of their own money, and they say that donations are coming in. Le Roux told The World:

This fund exists so that all of the women who want to wear a burka in public feel confident that not only can they make their first violation, but they can make repeated violations and we’ll fine to cover them.

Not everyone thinks their method is the best way to attack the problem. Conservative politician Eric Raoult, who the headed the parliamentary commission that recommended the ban, told The World, “Rather than raise money, I’d rather that Nekkaz join us in an act of citizenship to explain to women who wear the full veil that they should take it off.”

Others have claimed that the couple’s effort is little more than a publicity stunt. Nekkaz ran unsuccessfully for president in the last election, and Le Roux served as his spokesperson. Le Roux countered those accusations saying, “OK, maybe people will criticize us for trying to grab attention. Well, yes, we are trying to grab attention, because it’s an issue that merits attention.”

PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More “The World.”

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