Brussels: Belgium became Europe`s first
country to vote for a ban on the full Islamic veil or burqa,
sparking dismay on Friday among Muslims and warnings of a
dangerous precedent with France set to follow suit.
The bill, which also draw fire from human rights group
Amnesty International, will not enter force for weeks and may
have to be re-examined if early elections are called as
Belgium battles a political crisis.
"We`re the first country to spring the locks that have
made a good number of women slaves, and we hope to be followed
by France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands; countries
that think," said liberal deputy Denis Ducarme.
In the lower house of the federal parliament yesterday
night, 136 deputies supported a nationwide ban on clothes or
veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified,
including the full-face niqab and burqa.
There were two abstentions. No one voted against.
The ban will be imposed in streets, public gardens and
sports grounds or buildings "meant for public use or to
provide services" to the public, according to the text of the
People who ignore it could face a fine of USD 20-34
and/or a jail sentence of up to seven days.
All governing parties and the opposition agreed on the
move -- most for security reasons linked to the fact that
people cannot be recognised while wearing the clothing.
In Le Soir newspaper, Michael Privot, an Islamic
scholar, said Belgium "now joins Iran and Saudi Arabia in that
exclusive but unenviable rare club of countries to impose a
dress code in the public domain."
He said the three cite "the protection of dignity, or
even the freedom, of women to justify the unjustifiable: the
restriction of individual freedoms of some of our citizens."
The vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium,
Isabelle Praile, warned the vote could set a dangerous
precedent and pave the way for a crackdown on other symbols of
religious expression such as Sikh turbans.
"Given the acute crisis which our government is
facing, this move to kill our liberties, which will deprive
dozens of women of their fundamental rights, is totally over
the top and driven by ideology," she told agency.