France turns away three Saudi women from plane over face veil


France has refused entry to three women from Saudi Arabia who declined to take off their face veils (niqab) for immigration officials, forcing them to get a return flight, an airport source said Tuesday.

The women arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha at 2:30 pm (1230 GMT) Monday but were denied entry into France after refusing to lift their niqabs to show their faces to police carrying out border controls.

“They were issued a fine, according to the law” and returned to Doha that evening, the source said.

France has outraged many Muslims with its law against full veils, which came into force in April 2011 and bans covering one’s face in public.

Violations are punishable by a fine of up to 150 euros ($190) or citizenship training.

The government of former president Nicolas Sarkozy introduced the ban, as the first country in Europe, citing efforts to make France a more tolerant and inclusive society.

About 300 women were caught breaking the law in the first year it was in force, according to the interior ministry.

Supporters of the ban say the niqab contradicts France’s principles of secularism and women’s rights. Opponents however say it stigmatizes moderate Muslims and interferes with personal freedom.

French authorities say the ban aims to stop criminals from being able to disguise their appearance from security staff and surveillance cameras.