Police in Nantes, in the west of France, today fined a Muslim woman for driving whilst wearing a veil after she was stopped for driving through two sets of red lights and narrowly missing a young child trying to cross the road.
A police spokesman explained that the officers concerned suspected the woman's range of vision was being severely hampered by the veil when one of them leaned through the driver side window and asked for her driving licence.
"The woman was clearly startled and rapidly twisted her head from side to side before asking, 'Who said that?'" reported Officer Jacques Clouseau of the Nantes Traffic Division. "She obviously couldn't see either me, my partner or the police car with blue flashing lights parked in front of her."
Lawyers acting on behalf of the woman said at a press conference that they intend appealing the fine as they believe it is 'a breach of her human rights'. "It is unbelievable that in a, supposedly, secular society this woman is being discriminated against because of her religious beliefs." said Mr Fast Buck, the woman's solicitor.
In response to a counter claim by police lawyers that human rights work both ways and that the safety of other road users and their 'human right to life' had to also be considered, Mr Fast Buck replied, "Life, and death, is not something decided by a bunch of pompous bureaucrats in posh suits, it is the 'will of Allah'. Their point is irrelevant to this case."
The woman, who was also present at the press conference, had little to say except to read a short statement given to her by one of the 12 brothers who accompanied her to the meeting.
"I freely and of my own volition choose to wear the veil. It is an important part of my religious identity and is integral to protecting the honour of my family."
This was followed by a rather uncomfortable moment for the woman when a representative of Amnesty International questioned whether she really had 'free will' in the matter. The woman's eyes quickly glanced at one of her 'brothers', who was playfully bouncing a small rock in his hands, before answering, "Absolutely, 100% my own choice."
A spokesman for the French government said that the issues involved in the case were complicated but that they were eager to reach an amicable solution to the 'veil' problem in France.
"We have discussed the matter with Muslim Wahabbi clerics in Saudia Arabia and believe we can offer a compromise that will be acceptable to both parties. If the woman agrees to abide by all the restrictions recommended by the clerics, and therefore dictated by her faith, then we will be prepared to forget the fine and drop all charges against her."
"Quite obviously, if she cannot go out of the house without a male escort and is forbidden from driving then her wearing of the veil will no longer pose a threat to other road users."
The woman's lawyers were quite obviously upset by the compromise offered by the government. "We have no choice but to accept their offer. We appear to have been hoisted by our own Petard." snarled Mr Fast Buck before marching out of the meeting.