‘Fight to the death’

France’s ‘Zorro of the niqab’ takes on burqini ban

Rachid Nekkaz (R) with Kenza Drider, on December 12, 2011 in Paris, after Drider appeared at a police tribunal for violating France's niqab ban. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Although he says he is “personally am against the niqab and the burqini,” 44-year-old businessman Rachin Nekkaz has nevertheless taken it upon himself to cover the fines imposed on women who choose to wear the Islamic garments that are banned in various parts of France. “As soon as I see that France is not respecting fundamental liberties, I always get my check book out,” says the entrepreneur, who has earned himself the title “Zorro of the niqab.”

When several women were fined for wearing burqinis at Cannes recently, it was Nekkaz who picked up the bill. That was small change for the entrepreneur, who in 2010 set aside hundreds of thousands of euros to cover the fines of women who were wearing face veils in public. Last month, Nekkaz took to the streets of Locarno, Switzerland, in the company of a woman in a niqab, to defy a new ban there on face-obscuring garments. Both were fined.

“Once I do not agree, I will fight to the death to give the possibility to these people to express their opinion or to dress as they please,” Nekkaz told the Telegraph. “That is freedom. It is a question of principle.”

On Friday, Nice became the latest French town to prohibit the body-concealing Islamic “burqini” swimsuits, designating the beachwear as “overtly [manifesting] adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks.”

The mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, had previously referred to the swimwear as “a uniform that is the symbol of Islamist extremism,” and the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, called it a “provocation,” based on the “enslavement of women.”

Nekkaz sees a danger of radicalization in imposing such strong prohibitions. “This sort of politics, these types of decisions which do not respect fundamental liberties will create new clients for the Islamic State,” he said.

Indeed, outside of France, some commentators have said the swimwear is little different from a wetsuit — which attracts no prohibitions — and see the ban as yet another example of women being shamed for their appearance, be it immodest or too modest.

Read the full story at The Telegraph.

Related:

10 women fined or banished from beach as burqini ban comes into force

France’s minister of women’s rights defends burqini ban

Germany may outlaw women from wearing face veils in public

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