Paris: A prominent Algerian businessman and politician has agreed to pay the fines of all Muslim women who wear burkinis in France.
In his mission to defend what he calls a "fundamental democratic right," the French-Algerian entrepreneur and activist Rachid Nekkaz said he is prepared to pay the fine for any woman prosecuted for contravening French laws banning the burkini, according to media reports.
Nekkaz, the founder of Touches Pas a Ma Constitution (Hands Off My Constitution), a group he formed to defend the civil rights of Muslim women, told The National newspaper that he would pay the fines of any woman prosecuted for breaching the bans.
He has already covered fines totaling €245,000 (Dh1.01 million) imposed on 1,400 women for breaking a law enacted in France, and to a lesser extent in neighboring countries, to outlaw the face-covering veil in public.
"France is playing a very dangerous game, exploiting the fears of the population just as the country approaches election year," he said. "While I fought against the law on the veil, even that prohibited only headwear where the face was not visible and this is simply not the case with burkinis.
"This is very unfortunate for France and the mixture of emotions leading to the bans is a dangerous, even explosive cocktail," he added. "We no longer have intellectuals and statesmen, just demagogues."
It began with the burkini when a 29-year-old woman received a fine set at €38, for wearing the burkini at the La Croisette beach, this month. A 32-year-old woman also received a fine for the same charge, on and a third aged 57, according to le Parisien.
The burkini allows Muslim women to maintain their religious obligations at the beach by only exposing their faces, hands and feet.
Six other women wearing a burkini on the beach were stopped and asked to leave the beach. They were not fined because they complied with the new law.
Nekkaz funded a “freedom defense fund” with 1 million Euros in 2010 for the payment of fines for women who wear the niqab.
"I am calling for civil disobedience," he told France 24. "I am telling women not to be afraid to go out wearing their veils."