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Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 10:46 UK

Belgian lawmakers pass burka ban

Woman in face veil (file pic)
Those who break the law could be fined or jailed for seven days

Belgium's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.

The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. No-one voted against it.

The law now goes to the Senate, where it may face challenges over its wording, which may delay it.

If passed, the ban would be the first move of its kind in Europe.

Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million.

The BBC's Dominic Hughes in Brussels says MPs backed the legislation on the grounds of security, to allow police to identify people.

Other MPs said that the full face veil was a symbol of the oppression of women, our correspondent says.

Senate approval

Thursday's vote was almost unanimous with 134 MPs in support of the law and two abstentions.

They chose to live with us in Christian countries so they must obey our customs
J M Badoux-Gillbee, Netherlands

It is expected to pass through the Senate without being blocked, with initial reports saying it could come into law as early as June or July.

But the Liberals and Christian Democrats - both represented in the Senate - say they will question the phrasing of the law, which could cause delays.

It will also take longer to become law if elections are called, as parliament would have to be dissolved. The Belgium government collapsed last week.

The Muslim Executive of Belgium has criticised the move, saying it would lead to women who do wear the full veil to be trapped in their homes.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I am opposed to the state presuming to dictate what anyone should wear
Beth

Amnesty International said a ban would set a "dangerous precedent".

In a statement, the human rights group said it would "violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity and beliefs".

The ban would be imposed in all buildings or grounds that are "meant for public use or to provide services", including streets, parks and sports grounds.

Exceptions could be made for certain festivals.

Those who break the law could face a fine of 15-25 euros (£13-£27) or a seven-day jail sentence.

Muslim headscarves

The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in myriad styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.
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SEE ALSO
Belgian burka ban: Your comments
30 Apr 10 |  Europe
Belgium edges closer to veil ban
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The Islamic veil across Europe
15 Jun 10 |  Europe
Belgian board votes for veil ban
31 Mar 10 |  Europe



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