French minister defends veil ban after suburb violence

July 22, 2013 12:00 pm
France has become the first country in Europe to publicly ban the burqa or niqab/AFP
France is  the first country in Europe to publicly ban the burqa or niqab/AFP

, TRAPPES, July 22 – France’s interior minister on Monday defended the country’s controversial ban on full face veils after it triggered yet another bout of unrest outside Paris, which he said had now been “contained”.

The weekend violence in the suburb of Trappes erupted after a man was detained for allegedly attacking a police officer who had stopped his wife over her full-face veil a practice that is banned in France, outraging many in the Muslim community.

“The law banning the full face veil is a law for women, It is not for a second a law against Islam,” Manuel Valls told RTL radio.

“It is a law against practices that have nothing to do with our traditions and our values, and the police did their work perfectly well.”

He added that the bout of unrest the second to hit Paris suburbs in recent months over the same issue had now been “contained”.

The violence kicked off Friday evening, when some 400 people protested near the police station in Trappes, southwest of Paris.

They set fire to bins, destroyed bus stops and hurled stones at police who responded with tear gas. A 14 year old boy suffered a serious eye injury and several police officers were also hurt.

The unrest continued on Saturday night, albeit to a lesser degree, and by Sunday a tense calm had been restored.

Prosecutors say the husband of the woman who was stopped on Thursday allegedly attacked and tried to strangle the officer.

But in a statement released Monday, the man’s lawyer denied this, saying it was “false” without elaborating.

Wenceslas Ference said his client “wants it to be known that his wife has always accepted to show her face to police and cooperate during previous ID checks, of which there have been many.”

The man, identified as Mickael, was released from custody on Saturday and is due to appear before a court in September.

France has banned women from wearing full face veils in public since April 2011, and authorities say about 300 women were caught breaking the law in the first year it was in force.

Violations are punishable by a fine of up to 150 euros ($200) or mandatory citizenship training, and the ban has caused huge resentment.

A similar outbreak of unrest occurred last month when authorities stopped a 25 year old woman who was wearing a full-face veil in Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of Paris.

An angry crowd gathered and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.


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