Jihadists 'declare war' on France over veil ban

13th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Members of Arabic-language jihadist forums have called for war on France over its ban on niqabs, the full-face coverings worn by ultra-conservative Muslim women, a US-based web service said Wednesday.

The draconian new law, the first to be enforced in Europe, went into effect on Monday. Wearing the niqab or burka, a head-to-toe body covering, ia now banned in the street, public gardens, shops and government buildings.

In messages on a number of threads, "contributors posted calls to punish France for what was perceived as an anti-Islamic law," including calls for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to "carry out operations to 'deter' France," the SITE Intelligence Group said.

One exchange on Monday called for "members to declare war against France," while another expressed hope that "Al-Qaeda has dispatched operatives to France to attack the country."

One forum member said France had proved itself hostile to Muslims, also singling out Britain and the United States, and asking "Allah to expedite His just punishment for these criminals."

The discussions focused on a proposed internet "horror" campaign and on raising funds that would cover the fines incurred by women who defy the ban and help pay for attacks in France, SITE said.

One user provided the email addresses of 37 hotels in France and promised to provide more.

Another asked "why don't we save the donated money to do a martyrdom operation... in the heart of France to deter the foolish Sarkozy and his lost people behind him."

And another predicted that the law, the brain-child of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, represents the initiation of a third world war against Islam.

The law came into effect at an already fraught moment in relations between the state and France's Muslim minority, with Sarkozy accused of stigmatising Islam to win back votes from a resurgent far right.

French officials estimate that only around 2,000 women, from a total Muslim population estimated at between four and six million, wear niqabs, which are traditional in parts of Arabia and South Asia.

Support for the ban bridges the left-right divide.

Although the bulk of opposition lawmakers abstained from the vote on the law, 20 supported it and some feminists traditionally associated with the left support a ban on a garment they feel demeans women.

Anyone refusing to lift his or her veil to submit to an identity check can be taken to a police station. There, officers must try to persuade them to remove the garment, and can threaten fines.

A woman who repeatedly insists on appearing veiled in public can be fined 150 euros ($218) and ordered to attend re-education classes.

© 2011 AFP

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