In a civil protest against Muslim face veil ban in France and Belgium, a French businessman has set up a $1 Million Euro fund to pay fines for Muslim women who choose to don niqab in public.
“I’m in favor of a law to convict a husband who forces a women to wear the niqab and who forces her to stay at home,” Rachid Nekkaz, told reporters outside the courtroom in Belgium, FRANCE 24 reported on Friday, August 19.
“But I’m also for a law that lets these women move freely in the streets, because freedom of movement, just like any freedom, is the most fundamental thing in a democracy.”
Nakkaz, a 38-year-old real-estate businessman based in Paris, travelled to Belgium on Wednesday to pay 100 euros for two women fined in the first case in the country since the law was adopted there.
Earlier on Wednesday, he paid a 75 euro fine for a woman in the north-eastern French town of Roubaix.
“I am calling for civil disobedience,” he told FRANCE 24.
“I am telling women to not be afraid to go out wearing their veils. And by paying the fines, I am neutering the law, rendering it inefficient and pointless, showing that it doesn’t work.
“It is a humiliation for the politicians.”
Last July, Belgium became the second European country to ban Muslim face veil, or niqab, in public places.
According to the new law, Muslim women would not be allowed to go in public while donning full face veil.
If any woman failed to comply with the law, she will be punished with a penalty of 137.50 euros ($195) and up to seven days behind bars in jail as a punishment.
Earlier in April, a resolution by the French Parliament’s higher chamber banning Muslim women from wearing face-covering garments in all public places came into effect.
Offenders would also be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.
Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.
Vowing to challenge niqab ban in European courts, the French businessman attacked the French ban as a political game by President Nicolas Sarkozy to win a bigger share of support from far-right voters.
“This law was 100% politically motivated,” he said.
“Sarkozy made a gamble. He knew it was not constitutional, but he went ahead and did it anyway. He knows that if the law ever does get knocked down, it will be well after next year’s election, which he needs to win.”
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity has plummeted over climbing unemployment and painful spending cuts, have worked hard to court the far-right supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Along with the niqab ban, Sarkozy’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party started a debate last April on the role of Islam in secular France.
Though opposing the niqab himself, Nekkaz has launched a legal challenge in both France and Belgium.
He hopes to take to the European Court of Human Rights, describing the outfit as a personal choice that should be respected.
The French businessman believes that his efforts has forced a change in France, where he believes police are now less keen to impose the fine
“They are afraid of issuing fines because they know that I will simply pay them,” he said.
“Instead they subject these women to interrogations, asking them who their parents are, whether they work, whether they have been forced to wear the veil by their husbands.”
Nekkaz attacked such tactics as victimizing innocent Muslim women.
“It is unacceptable that they are victimizing innocent women who are going about their daily lives,” he said.