A French Muslim businessman says he is going to go to court to challenge a ban on women wearing full-face veils in public in France and Belgium.
Rachid Nekkaz said he personally is not in favour of women wearing the full veil, but feels the bans are unconstitutional and will pay the fines of all those prosecuted.
He started with the first two women to be fined under Belgium’s law banning any covering of the face in public, which came into effect late last month.
One of the women said she is not under family pressure to wear the face covering: “I have made this choice freely, I chose to wear it of my own accord four months ago. I’m not married and live with my parents’ and my parents are not in favour of it; they have never told me I had to wear it or that I had to take it off.”
Outside a municipal office in Brussels where the fines had to be paid Nekkaz told reporters: “France and Belgium have decided to forbid the possibility and the liberty of women to wear what they want.”
“I’m in favour of a law to convict a husband who forces a women to wear the niqab and who forces her to stay at home. 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.”
Nekkaz said he has set up a one million euro fund for legal challenges and to pay fines.
Jean Demannez, the mayor of the Belgian town where the two women were fined, said Nekkaz might be able to find better things to do with his money: “If he has money to spare I have lots of good ideas for how he can spend it on the community here in Saint Joost, where we have people from 154 different countries and all the financial problems that come with that.”
Nekkaz has vowed to take his legal challenge through the French and Belgian courts and then to the European Court of Human Rights if needs be.