The Butcher and His Burqa are Back

The Halal butcher from Nantes and his bevy of burqa-wearing “concubines” is back in the news and for all the wrong reasons.

Women wearing burqas, the most concealing of a...

Outlawed in public space in France – Image via Wikipedia

(Read more online French News here)
A year ago Algerian-born Lies Hèbbadj, 36, hit the headlines just as government was discussing plans to outlaw the wearing of the burqa in public space.

At the time the butcher from the western city of Nantes, was said to be living in polygamy with four women and allegedly committing benefit fraud because the women were claiming support as single mothers for their 12 children. Police charged one of the face-veiled women, Sandrine Moulerie, 31, for driving a car “without unobstructed vision” – an offence that attracts a 22 euro fine. Her husband hired a lawyer to defend her, as we reported here, sparking a multi-layered investigation which turned out to be mainly disadvantageous to the butcher and brought his marital and other arrangements under intense official scrutiny.

This time according to Le Figaro newspaper two of the polygamous butcher’s “concubines” were reportedly stopped and questioned by police for wearing the niqab or full face veils (now outlawed in the public space in France), outside a primary school attended by their children in Rezé, a commuter town near Nantes.

When challenged the two women agreed to show their faces to the police who recorded the offence. They are likely to be called in for a further police interview and possibly cautioned for an offence that carries a 150 euros fine and an obligation to attend a citizenship course.

The “no face covering” law which came into effect April 11 2011, makes France the second European country after Belgium, formally legislating against dress codes considered to offend the host country’s predominant culture, traditions and way of life. The French provisions apply equally to women wearing the Muslim niqab and burqa in public space, as they do to a motorcyclist hidden behind a darkened helmet visor at a service station or in a bank.

Since the law came into force some 30 women using the burqa, in public spaces have been questioned by police with only two convicted, by a court in Meaux. The two Nantes women “fully intend to mount a challenge to the alleged offence,” according to the Le Figaro report quoting Jean-Michel Pollono, the lawyer who defended Sandrine Moulerie, the 31-year-old driver and another of Lies Hebbadj “concubines”, when she was charged by a traffic policeman last year for “not having a clear field of vision”.

She had been stopped behind the wheel of car in Nantes while wearing an Islamic face veil.

Reacting to the latest affair involving the controversial butcher and his family, Rezé mayor Gilles Retière spoke of ” provocation”. He said the two women had started an argument outside the school with “families from the local travellers (gypsy) community.”

The butcher faces a further problem. This time his own lawyer, the man who won the earlier burqa driving offence case against Lies Hebbadj’s companion, is not disposed to take the case.

Jean-Michel Pollono told the paper that for reasons of coherence he would decline to act for the women in the latest affair. He justified this saying: “If he (Hebbadj) fought in the first case to defend freedom of worship as enshrined in the 1905 Act, this time round he cannot (logically) demand that someone be defended for wearing the niqab in a school which in the French secular state is defined as a public space”.

At the time of the original offence Le Figaro (citing details clearly revealing input from state intelligence sources) described the butcher of Nantes as follows: “Bearded, dressed in a Pakistani-style turban covering (Khamiss in French), Lies Hebbadj, companion of a French convert to Islam, does not go unnoticed in Rezé-les-Nantes. Born in Algiers 34 years ago (the report date is 2010) he arrived in Nantes as a very young child. Locally Lies Hebbadj is known for taking firm stances about his religious and for his work as leader of the cultural association he founded to obtain local authority authorisation to build a mosque in the town where he has lived and worked for 10 years. Lies Hebbadj is, indeed, a butcher working for the brand-new, well-kept El Kaouthar butchery. But he is also a very active member of the Tabligh movement or Tabligh Jamaat, (a dated history from 1996 can be found here, while Wikipedia defines it as an offshoot of [the more insidious Deobandi movement]) an ostentatious “proselytizing movement” whose epicenter is in Pakistan, and which he has visited several times. His trips abroad, including to London (mockingly known as Londonistan to French intelligence), have also been the subject of ongoing monitoring by intelligence services.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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