French woman fined for beach headscarf
After banning 'burkinis' at several resort cities across France, some local authorities seem to be moving to a ban on headscarves and not just the concealing swimming suit worn by some Muslim women.

Now, one French Muslim woman recently fined by police for covering her hair on a public beach has spoken to Anadolu Agency about her ordeal.

On Aug. 16, 34-year-old Siham [surname withheld] was holidaying in Cannes with her family when she was approached by police and ordered to pay an 11-euro [$12] fine or leave the beach for wearing a headscarf.

According to police paperwork seen by Anadolu Agency, the fine was for "any person with a dress code that is not correct, respectful of morality and secularism".

For Siham – a French-born convert to Islam – it is the first such fine since she started wearing the headscarf six years ago.

‘French by birth’

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the mother of two said she was not wearing a burkini that day on Cannes-la-Bocca beach, just a headscarf and a normal dress:

"Someone must have called the police because three policemen headed directly toward us to inform me of the decree [from the mayor of Cannes on burkinis].”

She said police suggested she wear her headscarf as a "bandana”.

"I cannot wear my scarf as a bandana; I want to cover my neck. I do not see how this can bother anyone," Siham told the officers, before being asked to leave the beach.

"They told me clearly: 'You do not want to leave the beach? No? We will write you a fine.’”

For Siham, it is not only the police response which shocked her, it was onlookers’ passivity and silence: "Only three or four people came to support me. Others were quite happy, saying: 'You do not belong here, go home.’”

"I am French by birth, of French parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. I chose to convert and they are telling me 'Go home'!

"But I'm already home.”

Despite being contacted, Cannes police were unavailable for comment before publication of this story.

Double standards

One eyewitness speaking to Anadolu Agency -- Mathilde C., a journalist and independent TV director who also wanted to withhold her surname -- police told her the decree prohibits not just burkinis but "all ostentatious religious signs on the beach".

When she asked officers why they are not applying it to people wearing a cross, the journalist said she received a dry response from the police: "‘Come on, we are not going to look for the cross!’"

Mathilde said she was "shocked" by the reaction of people on the beach who were largely supporting the police.

- Rejection, exclusion

Siham says: "During the six years of wearing a headscarf I never received comments or had problems with people… I have never worn the burkini on the beach.

"However, I feel I’m not able to dress the way I want on my own country,” adds. "I felt clearly rejected, excluded from my own country."

A court in Nice on Monday ruled that the burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet town was "necessary, appropriate and proportionate" to prevent public disorder after a succession of terror attacks in France, including one in Nice on July 14.

At least 15 French towns have issued a decree to ban the garment.

The French Human Rights League (LDH) said it is appealing the decision. The LDH and other rights groups believe the ban is a "serious and illegal attack on numerous fundamental rights" including freedom of religion.

The French Council of State – the country’s highest court – will study the appeal on Thursday at a public hearing.

Siham insists she will not give up: "I have not paid the fine and I will appeal. I have already contacted the CCIF [Collective Against Islamophobia in France] to contest it.”

She also said she was considering a lawsuit against mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, for having "violated individual freedoms".

"We will do everything so that this type of incident does not happen again.”

Last Modified: 2016-08-25 09:31:10
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