STRASBOURG, France, Oct 10 (Reuters) A French court fined a guesthouse owner who refused to give a room to a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf unless she removed it in common areas.
Found guilty of religious discrimination, Yvette Truchelut, 54, was handed a suspended four month prison sentence and fined 1409 dollars yesterday. She will have to pay a total of 7,400 euros to the plaintiff and rights groups that brought the action.
Horia Demiati, who is of Moroccan origin, came to the guesthouse in eastern France in August 2006 with her mother, who was also wearing a headscarf, and other members of her family.
She chose to leave the guesthouse rather than comply with the guesthouse owner's demand. Truchelut defended herself during hearings last week by citing her views on secularism.
France in 2004 passed a law banning religious garb, notably Muslim headscarves, from state schools. The move sparked a vigorous public debate on integrating immigrants and the right of religious expression.
Since then, President Nicolas Sarkozy has further stoked the debate with the creation of a new ministry for immigration and national identity which critics say risks reinforcing racial prejudice by twinning the two issues.
Reuters TB VP0435