Moroccan woman denied French citizenship because of religion

Paris, France - A 32-year-old Moroccan woman married to a Frenchman has been denied French citizenship because of her religious practices, such as wearing a burqa, the daily Le Monde reported Friday on its online edition. According to the report, the June 27 decision by the Council of State, the French supreme court for administrative justice, was the first-ever to pronounce itself on the ability of a foreigner to be assimilated in French society because of his or her religious practices.

Previously, only individuals judged to have been members of fundamentalist movements or having made public statements in favour of Islamic radicalism had been denied French citizenship.

The council said it refused citizenship to the woman, who has three children born in France, because she had "adopted, in the name of a radical practice of her religion, social behaviour that is incompatible with the basic values of French society, particularly the equality of the sexes."

The decision was made after the woman, identified as Faiza M., went before the council to annul a 2005 decree denying her request for citizenship because of "a lack of assimilation."

Faiza M., who has lived in France since 2000, invoked the principle of freedom of religion and told the council that she had "never looked to challenge the fundamental values of the Republic."

However, the government commissioner charged with giving a legal opinion on the case, Emmanuelle Prada-Bordenave, said that for three meetings with French police authorities Faiza M. "was dressed in... a long robe that fell to her feet, a headscarf hiding her hair, forehead and chin, a veil concealing her face and leaving only a slit for the eyes."

The report went on to say that Faiza M. had admitted to police that she lived a very reclusive life in France and was removed from French society.

"She has no idea of secularism or the right to vote," the commissioner reported. "She lives in total submission to the men of her family."