'Antisocial' Niqab: ECHR Upholds France's Muslim Full Veil Ban
A woman wearing a niqab, a type of full veil, as she walks in a street in the center of Roubaix, northern France.PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld France's ban on face-covering Muslim veils.

Judges in Strasburg dismissed a complaint lodged by a 24-year-old French woman who claimed her freedom of religion was violated by the 2010 law.

Under the law, which came into effect in 2011, women who cover their faces in an array of places such as in the street for instance, can be fined up to €150 ($205) or be obliged to attend a citizenship class, or both.

The plaintiff said she was a devout Muslim and wore the burqa and niqab not under the pressure of her family but in accordance with her religious faith, culture and personal convictions.

The court however said that France was right in saying that covering one's face in public could be considered as anti-social behaviour.

The French government had argued that face-covering veils threatened the French model of integration in which people of different origins are expected to assimilate.

"The Court accepted that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face in public could undermine the notion of 'living together'," the ruling read.

"The Court was also able to understand the view that individuals might not wish to see, in places open to all, practices or attitudes which would fundamentally call into question the possibility of open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question."

Critics of the ban contend that it targets Muslims and stigmatises Islam.

However the ruling stated: "There was no restriction on the freedom to wear in public any item of clothing which did not have the effect of concealing the face and that the ban was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face."

France is home to about five million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, but it is estimated that only about 2,000 women wear full veils.