French businessman to pay all burqa fines

Aug. 23, 2011 at 12:43 AM
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PARIS, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A French businessman says he has started a $1.43 million fund to pay fines for women who choose to wear burqas in countries where it is illegal to do so.

Rachid Nekkaz, 38, traveled from Paris to Belgium Wednesday to pay $143 in fines for two women who wore burqas in public there, where it is illegal to do so, France 24 reported.

"I am calling for civil disobedience," Nekkaz said. "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."

France outlawed burqas in April 2011. Nekkaz says laws banning the full Islamic veil are politically motivated to gain support from far-right voters.

"This law was 100 percent politically motivated," he said. "(French President Nicolas) 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."

However, some political groups accuse Nekkaz of also being politically motivated, as he plans to run in next year's French presidential election.

"Wearing a Niqab is a woman's choice," said Lila Citar, president of Amazones de la Liberte. "It is precisely because of the supposed manipulation by men that politicians say they object to women wearing a full veil. Nekkaz is trying to manipulate women. He accuses politicians of being opportunistic -- but so is he. He is exploiting this issue as a presidential candidate to get attention in the media."

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