It started as a traffic ticket, issued to a woman at the wheel whose vision police said was dangerously obstructed by a full-face Islamic veil.
Before long, the case expanded into allegations of polygamy and welfare fraud against her common-law husband, a French national of Algerian origin. And now, according to Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, it has become a reason to amend the constitution to harden the way French society deals with lawbreakers among a Muslim minority estimated at more than 5 million.
The noisy rise of a $25 traffic ticket issued to Sandrine Mouleres in April in the port city of Nantes, 220 miles west of Paris, to a level of national concern has illuminated the extent of unease in France and other Western European countries over Muslim populations whose customs and visibility often clash with the continent's secular and Christian values.
Mouleres, a French convert to Islam who has four children, sent the case skyward when she held a news conference in Nantes to contest the legitimacy of her traffic ticket. Even with her full veil, she said, she could see just as well through eye slits as motorcyclists who wear mandated plastic helmets as they snarl through traffic in French cities.