Madrid: Spain`s upper house of parliament
on Wednesday approved a motion calling on Prime Minister Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero`s socialist government to ban the use of
face-covering Islamic veils in public.
The motion was introduced by the main opposition
conservative Popular Party and it calls for a ban on the
niqab, which covers the face but leaves the eyes exposed, as
well as the body-covering burka.
It was narrowly approved with the votes of 131 in favour
and 129 against. There were no abstentions.
"Today, a very important step in favour of freedom and
women`s equality was taken," the deputy leader of the Popular
Party, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, told reporters after the
Last week Justice Minister Francisco Caamano said the
government planned to restrict the use of face-covering
Islamic veils in public places under a proposed new law on
"We believe that there are things like the burka which
are hard to reconcile with human dignity and which especially
pose problems of identification in public places," he told
In recent days several municipalities in the northeastern
region of Catalonia, including Barcelona, have imposed bans on
the use of face-covering Islamic veils in public or have
announced plans to do so.
Immigration from Muslim countries has soared in Spain
since the 1990s, with Catalonia in particular being home to a
large community of Pakistani origin.
There are now about one million Muslims among Spain`s
population of 47 million.