FRANCE – Algerian businessman steps in to pay women’s burkini fines

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I-24 NEWS – ‘My duty is to remind great European democracies that what made [them] great…is the respect of freedoms.

An Algerian entrepreneur has stepped in to pay fines incurred by Muslim women in France who are continuing to wear burkinis to the beach even as a string of French coastal towns have banned them.

Rachid Nekkaz, who is also a human rights activist according to CNN, has said he is paying the fines in order to fight for the rights of the women concerned.

“I decided to pay for all of the fines of women who wear the burkini in order to guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law,” CNN quoted Nekkaz as saying.

“My duty is to remind great European democracies that what made these great democracies is the respect of fundamental freedoms,” he continued.

Nekkaz acknowledged that he does not consider the burkini or the niqab are helpful for integration. Nonetheless, he said, he still believes it is women’s right to wear them if they choose.

“[L]ike the French philosopher Voltaire once said, even if I don’t agree with these women, I will fight until death to guarantee their freedom of expression.”

And it could be a costly venture: the fines come to 150 euros (around $205), and Nekkaz says he expects there to be around 100 fines over the course of the rest of the summer.

Nekkaz also said he saw politicians as exploiting fear of Islam in order to make what he called “an unacceptable, inadmissible and intolerable move.”

France is not alone in taking steps to ban certain Islamic women’s garments, with the niqab banned in Belgium and certain towns across Italy, Switzerland, Spain and other European countries implementing their own prohibitions. Last week, Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere expressed support for a ban on full face veils in certain areas.

“I don’t accept that these great countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands and now Germany, take advantage of this fear of Islam to reduce the number of personal freedoms,” CNN quoted Nekkaz as saying.

Meanwhile, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) on Wednesday called for an “urgent” meeting with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve over the ban on the burkini.

The CFCM “is concerned over the direction the public debate is taking,” the president of the body, Anouar Kbibech, said in a statement, citing the “growing fear of stigmatization of Muslims in France.”

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