Belgium bans burqa
The Home Affairs committee of federal parliament has approved a ban on clothing worn in public that does not allow the face to be clearly seen – an effective ban on Muslim garments such as the niqab and the burqa. It is the first such ban to be introduced in Europe.
The Chamber will vote on the measure next week. The Council of State in France, where such a measure is being contemplated, advised their government that a ban would be in conflict with the European Treaty on Human Rights. The Belgian Council of State, however, has not yet been consulted.
Muslim community leaders protested the ban, as did Catholic representatives, who see it as an attack on religion and a dangerous precedent. The news reached the pages of most of Europe’s newspapers, considering a number of countries have been considering similar measures.
The Wall Street Journal attributed the lack of major protest to the fact that Belgium’s 400,000 Muslims come from Turkey and Morocco, where full-face coverage is not common. The paper quoted the president of the Muslim Executive, Semsettin Ugurlu: “I really don’t have a problem with the ban itself. We don’t have burqas in Turkey. I just worry it could be a slippery slope to taking away other freedoms.”
Het Laatste Nieuws, meanwhile, asked if the ban on face covering would also extend to motorcyclists and even, in a leap of imagination, to men disguised as Sinterklaas.