The European Court of Human Rights upheld France's ban on face-concealing veils like the burqa and niqab on Tuesday as judges accepted the country's argument that the ban is justified because it improves social interaction among citizens.
A 24-year-old French citizen of Pakistani origin, who goes only by the initials S.A.S. in court documents, had challenged the 2010 law, claiming it violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. But the court ruled in France’s favor, endorsing French authorities' interest in preserving what the Guardian describes as "a certain idea of 'living together.' " The decision is also a victory for Belgium, which passed a similar prohibition.
Of the estimated 5 million Muslims living in France (the largest Muslim population in Western Europe), French officials say approximately 1,000 are affected by the ban.
Women caught violating the law can be fined as much as 150 euros ($205), compelled to take a citizenship class, or both.
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