By Estelle Shirbon
PARIS (Reuters) – France has denied citizenship to a veiled Moroccan woman on the grounds that her “radical” practice of Islam is incompatible with basic French values such as equality of the sexes, a legal ruling showed on Friday.
The case will reignite debate about how to reconcile freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the French constitution, and other fundamental rights, which many in France feel are being challenged by the way of life of some Muslims.
Le Monde newspaper said it was the first time a Muslim applicant had been rejected for reasons to do with personal religious practice.
“She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes,” said a ruling by the Council of State handed down last month and sent to Reuters on Friday to confirm a report in Le Monde.
The Council of State is a judicial body which has final say on disputes between individuals and the public administration.
Married to a French national, the woman arrived in France in 2000, speaks good French and has three children born in France.
She wears a black burqa that covers all her body except her eyes, which are visible through a narrow slit, and lives in “total submission” to her husband and male relatives, according to reports by social services. Le Monde said the woman is 32.
The woman’s application for French nationality was rejected in 2005 on grounds of “insufficient assimilation”. She appealed to the Council of State, which last month approved the rejection.
In the past, nationality was denied to Muslims who were known to have links with extremist circles or who had publicly advocated radicalism, which is not the case here.
The ruling comes weeks after a heated debate over whether traditional Muslim views were creeping into French law, prompted by a court annulment of the marriage of two Muslims because the husband said the wife was not a virgin as she had claimed to be.
In the case of the Moroccan woman, Le Monde suggested the Council of State had gone to the opposite extreme by rejecting the woman’s beliefs and way of life rather than accommodating them.
“Is a burqa incompatible with French nationality?” the newspaper asked.
The legal expert who provided a formal report on the case to the Council of State wrote that the woman’s interviews with social services revealed that “she lives almost as a recluse, isolated from French society,” Le Monde reported.
“She has no idea about the secular state or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to her male relatives. She seems to find this normal and the idea of challenging it has never crossed her mind,” Emmanuelle Prada-Bordenave wrote.
Le Monde quoted Daniele Lochak, a law professor not involved in the case, as saying it was bizarre to consider that excessive submission to men was a reason not to grant citizenship.
“If you follow that to its logical conclusion, it means that women whose partners beat them are also not worthy of being French,” Lochak said.