In an online audio recording whose authenticity has not yet been determined, Ayman al Zawahiri is heard urging Muslim women to flout the ban at any cost, telling all Muslims to resist the law.
“In France, the pioneer of secularism, there is an overt and shameless war on hijab and niqab,” Zawahiri said. “What France is doing . . . should prompt us to hold on to our true religion in face of their deviant ideologies.”
“My Muslim sisters, hold on to your hijab, even if it would cost you your money, education and jobs,” he insisted. “You are mujahedat (female holy warriors) in the most important battlefield.”
On 13 July, the French lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of the plan to outlaw face-covering veils, like the burka and niqab, earlier this month. The French Senate is expected to vote on the proposal in September.
Other European countries, including Belgium and Spain, are considering bills similar to France's law.
For al-Zawahiri, the law to ban the Muslim face cover reveals that freedom in the West is confined to “fighting Islam . . . and insulting the prophet, while banning anything touching anti-Semitism, or questioning the Nazi Holocaust.”