The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the French law which prohibits the concealment of one’s face in public places. The law is directed principally at prohibiting Muslim women covering their faces in public spaces in France. The decision of the Strasbourg Court is premised on the French notion of ‘le vivre ensemble’; ‘living together.’ This critical analysis of the judgment contends that the decision is flawed and retrogressive for women’s rights in particular and undermines the socio-cultural rights and freedoms of individuals who belong to minority groups in general. On wider implications of the decision, it is worrisome that the decision appears to pander to dangerous political leanings currently growing in many parts of Europe and beyond. The Court risks promoting forced assimilation policies against minorities in various parts of the world. To illustrate its implications, the article highlights the experience of the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
Application no. 43835/11 1 July2014available at <http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001–145466>.
U Farooq‘Chinese Uighurs Defy Ramadan Ban’Al Jazeera English(5 July 2014) available at <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/07/chinese-uyghurs-defy-ramadan-ban-20147471125107552.html> (accessed 7 July 2014). Interestingly in August 2014 a city in the Xingjian region also banned people from wearing hijabs niqabs burkas or clothing with the Islamic star and crescent symbol from using local buses. See ‘City in China’s Mainly Muslim Xinjiang Region Bans Big Beards’ available at: <http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/city-in-chinas-mainly-muslim-xinjiang-region-bans-big-beards/story-fnh81fz8-1227015756874> (accessed 6 August 2014).
M Clarke‘China's “War on Terror” in Xinjiang: Human Security and the Causes of Violent Uighur Separatism’ (2008) 20 (2) Terrorism and Political Violence 271, 274; AA Seytoff ‘China’s Uighurs Claim Cultural “Genocide”’Al Jazeera02 June 2014 available at <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/china-uighurs-claim-cultural-gen-20146 165946224857.html>.