When Faiza Silmi applied for French citizenship, she worried that her French was not quite good enough or that her Moroccan upbringing would pose a problem.
“I would never have imagined that they would turn me down because of what I choose to wear,” Ms. Silmi said, her hazel eyes looking out of the narrow slit in her niqab, an Islamic facial veil that is among three flowing layers of turquoise, blue and black that cover her body from head to toe.
But last month, France’s highest administrative court upheld a decision to deny citizenship to Ms. Silmi, 32, on the ground that her “radical” practice of Islam was incompatible with French values like equality of the sexes.
In an interview at her home in a public housing complex southwest of Paris, the first she has given since her citizenship was denied, Ms. Silmi told of her shock and embarrassment when she found herself unexpectedly in the public eye. Since July 12, when Le Monde first reported the court decision, her story has been endlessly dissected on newspaper front pages and in late-night television talk shows.
“They say I am under my husband’s command and that I am a recluse,” Ms. Silmi said during an hourlong conversation in her apartment in La Verrière, a small town 30 minutes by train from Paris. At home, when no men are present, she lifts her facial veil and exposes a smiling, heart-shaped face.
“They say I wear the niqab because my husband told me so,” she said. “I want to tell them: It is my choice. I take care of my children, and I leave the house when I please. I have my own car. I do the shopping on my own. Yes, I am a practicing Muslim, I am orthodox. But is that not my right?”
The Silmis say they live by a literalist interpretation of the Koran. They do not like the term Salafism, although they say literally it means following the way of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
“But today ‘Salafist’ has come to mean political Islam; people who don’t like the government and who approve of violence call themselves Salafists,” said her husband, a soft-spoken man who bears two physical signs of devotion in Islam: a beard and a light bruising on his forehead caused by bows in prayer. “We have nothing to do with them.”
Ms. Silmi’s husband, a former bus driver who says he is finding it hard to get work because of his beard, dreams of moving his family to Morocco or Saudi Arabia. “We don’t feel welcome here,” he said. “I am French, but I can’t really say that I am proud of it right now.”