Belgium on the verge of banning burqas

Gordon Brown is regaining ground in the polls following recent developments in the election contest. Image: Policy Network

Gordon Brown is regaining ground in the polls following recent developments in the election contest. Image: Policy Network

Belgium looks poised to become the first country in Europe to ban items of clothing, include the burka and the niqab, which hides identity in public spaces. The Bill was passed easily in the lower house and may become law as early as next month.

No MPs voted against the ban, which also has widespread public support. It seems that Belgium will decisively choose that full-face veils have no place in its society.

The ban is generally aimed at clothing that hides a person’s identity. Supporters argue the law is a necessary measure for public security.

Daniel Bacquelaine, head of Belgium’s liberal Reformist Movement Party, is adamant that the ban would not constitute a violation of human rights, stating: “It’s not about introducing any form of discrimination”.

Some feel that face veils form a barrier for interacting with the person beneath it. For the purpose of improved social integration and cohesion, banning clothing that conceals a person’s identity is an admirable step.

Critics have argued that being unable to see a person’s face while talking to them constitutes a serious impediment to being able to engage in meaningful communication.
Societies that enforce the wearing of full-face veils are places where women are oppressed and subjugated. In Afghanistan, women are forced to where the burka by the Taliban, and as such it represents an instrument of intolerance and forced submission.

Belgium’s move to ban it, and other face-veils, is a move to be applauded. “A civilized society cannot accept the imprisonment of women”, emphasises Bacquelaine.
Tunisia has already banned the wearing of the niqab. In Turkey, wearing a headscarf is banned in public office and universities on the grounds that it is incompatible with the ideals of a secular society.

Belgium’s bill is likely to undergo considerable opposition from human rights organizations.

Sarkozy has already said that full veils “threaten the dignity of women” and have no place in France.

Amnesty International has already criticised it, saying it sets a “dangerous precedent”. Undeniably, the line between preserving the right to freedom of expression and promoting integration and cross-cultural dialogue is tenuous and ambiguous.

Belgium may be the first European country to ban full-face veils, but it’s unlikely to be the last. France has been on the brink of introducing similar legislation. French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, has already said that full veils “threaten the dignity of women” and have no place in France.

Whilst such a ban seems a distant possibility in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands are also contemplating a similar legislation to Belguim.

Europe will be watching with interest to see whether the Belgian bill becomes law. The Netherlands are also contemplating a similar ban.

9 comments

  1. 0%to 5 % clothing models, movie stars, pop stars, socialites invade our magazines, Tv screens, game consoles, mobile phones, bilboards. The West does nothing.

    Now, Muslim women want to go with 100% clothing in public.

    What’s the big deal?
    Double standards?

    Let’s fight for helpless Muslim women!

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  2. Hasn’t Italy already introduced this legislation? They fined someone for the first time I think the other day for wearing a veil in public.

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  3. Unfortunately, you appear to be slightly misinformed in stating that Belgium is the first country in Europe to ban the burqa. A certain Mr Attaturk put ia headscarf ban into the Turkish constitution circa 1925 or so, for which I applaud him. There is a tremendous potential for domestic violence to remain unnoticed if you cannot see someone’s face.

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  4. At ? – In Italy the burqa is banned in the city of Novara, which is where a woman was recently fined for wearing it in public, but not nationwide.

    At Luke – To clarify; when I said that Belgium was the first country in Europe to ban the burqa, I was referring specifically to a ban in public places. Turkey bans head coverings in universities and government institutions, rather than in parks or streets.

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  5. In my view banning something like the burqa may not be the most effective initiative to fortify security measures. All it would do is hurt the sentiments of a community that is now forced to abide by the law and perhaps go against its own beliefs in the process. http://www.lawisgreek.com/burqas-in-belgium/

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  6. I have been disappointed that Nouse published an article clearly in favour of the ban of the burqa. In the article “Belgium’s move to ban it (the burqa), an other face-veils, is a move to be applauded”

    This proposed law to ban the burqa goes against the main principle of a democratic country, namely liberty.
    “On the level of principle, it seems somewhat paradoxical to be upholding our European values of liberalism and tolerance by restricting the right of women to choose to dress as they wish, in accordance with their beliefs. I personally do not encourage the wearing of niqab, just as I may not support many of my fellow citizens’ lifestyle choices, and I understand that not being able to view another’s face can be uncomfortable for many.
    But our personal disagreement or discomfort with another’s choice does not give us the right to ban it.” (The Guardian, April 23, 2010 Friday) What about Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the rights of minority groups to preserve their culture?

    Studies have been released, and showed that nowadays, in European countries such as Belgium or France, contrary to other countries, most of the women wearing the niqab do it by choice. This assertion certainly makes some people disagree, because the idea that some women wear the niqab out of a desire , is sometimes hard to understand. But the right to choose what you want to wear, should not be violated. That’s why feminist fought for so long, for enabling women to have the choice and be free from oppression. “Despite their views of the burqa, the defence of women’s autonomy and choice should be enough to stir feminists.” ( The Age, May 8, 2010 Saturday)

    As Intissar Kherigi outlines, “ it seems that many of our basic principles evaporate when faced with the hyseria surounding Muslim issues and particularly women.”

    The Guardian, April 23, 2010,Friday (Byline: Intissar Kherigi, Section: Guardian comment and debate pages, p38,Lenght: 605 words)
    http://www.lexisnexis.com/uk/nexis/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T9295866101&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T9295866104&cisb=22_T9295866103&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=138620&docNo=7

    The Age (Melbourne, Australia) May 8, 2010 Saturday, (Byline: SAMAH HADID and RAYANN BEKDACHE. Samah Hadid is the 2010 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. Rayann Bekdache is a freelance journalist, Section Insight; Opinion; Pg. 9,Lenght: 800 words)
    http://www.lexisnexis.com/uk/nexis/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T9295866101&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T9295866104&cisb=22_T9295866103&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=314239&docNo=1

    Human Rights Watch,
    Available at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/02/beyond-burqa

    Oumma TV.
    Availale at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/custom?q=cache:2zWjqkmGcQEJ:oumma.com/spip.php%3Fpage%3Doummatv-article%26id_article%3D4492+agnes+de+feo&cd=3&hl=fr&ct=clnk&client=google-coop

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  7. To TG:

    Women who wear the burqa don’t do this by choice, they have been told since they were children that it was the right way to dress in public spaces
    Therefore, this is not the result of a conscious choice but of brainwashing.

    Moreover, you were talking about feminism but precisely, the purpose of feminism is to give women the same rights as men, to allow them to be independant and opression-free. And I’m not sure that hiding them behind burqa or niqab is the best way of doing it since it denies women’s identity, this is the visible enslavement’s tool of Islamic fundamentalists.

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  8. A burqa is an item of clothing which people choose to wear as an expression of their faith and/or cultural heritage. Is it not obvious what kind of precedent is set when we ban attire due to a perception of its significance held not by the wearer, but unrelated passers by? The Belgian ban is an indication of a latent Islamophobia, not of any concern for the welfare of Muslim women. If the latter was true, there would have been some consultation. It is not the place of any legislative body to remove the choice to wear an item of clothing from others. The very idea is laughable, and the only reason it is deemed even slightly acceptable is because the people affected are a minority group who are apparently viewed in such a paternalistic and patronising way that nobody questions the removal of a basic human right. And these law-makers then go on to make the appalling claim that “it’s for their own good”. Really. I mean, really?

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  9. amazing. you guys really don’t know how much you just helped me on my assignment lmfao!

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