A retired teacher is facing three years in prison for ripping off a Muslim’s face veil in the world’s first known case of ‘burka rage’.
The 63-year-old woman, so far only referred to by her first name Marlene, appeared before the Paris Correctional Court to defend her attack on Shaika, 26, who originally comes from the United Arab Emirates.
The happened in February when both women were out shopping in an upmarket suburb of the French capital, with Marlene claiming: ‘For me the wearing of the veil is an aggressive act, there is no burka in my country.’
The case comes at an extremely sensitive time as France has just banned the burka and the niqab following an impassioned public debate more than two years.
Marlene, who is accused of aggravated violence, is said to have ‘lost control’ when she saw Shaika choosing furniture in a department store.
‘I knew I would crack one day,’ said Marlene. ‘This whole saga of the burka was really getting to me.’
Speaking in English to her victim, Marlene, who has taught in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, said: ‘I told her to take off the veil she had on her face. I grabbed and pulled it.
‘To me wearing a full veil is an attack on being a woman. As a woman, I felt attacked.’
A few minutes later Marlene is said to have started hitting Shaika, who refused to take her veil off.
‘I went over to her and tore her veil,’ said Marlene in a police report. ‘We came to blows. I was very upset.’
After allegedly slapping Shaika, Marlene bit her hand before successfully removing the veil, shouting: ‘Now I can see your face.’
Security guards had to separate the women, with one describing the fight as being motivated by ‘pure burka rage’.
Shaika suffered cuts and bruises and had to take two days off work. She was so upset that she has now left France and returned to the Emirates, and will not attend today’s court case.
Marlene’s defence for the attack was that ‘we do not wear the burka in my country’ but in fact no ban was in place in February.
Even if it was, it would not be up to people to make citizen’s arrests, said a legal source involved in the case.
Marlene said: ‘I’ve taught in countries like Morocco and Saudi Arabia and know how these women walk three paces behind their husbands.
‘When I saw a burka in a Paris shop I thought it was very provocative. I did not hit or use any violence against this woman. I just wanted to pull her burqa off. I know I shouldn’t have got angry, but I lost it.’
Lotfi Ouled Ben Hafsia, for Shaika, said his client had been living in Paris for three years, but would never return because of the ‘racist attack’.
It is now a criminal offence to wear a burka in France, with woman facing fines and even a prison sentence when the law is enforced in six months time.
The case continues.