Belgium moves towards public ban of niqab and burka
Belgium moves towards public ban of niqab and burka
Thursday, April 1,2010 19:27
By Sara Memmi

If the ban is practiced , the country will be the first European nation to prohibit the wearing of the Muslim clothing.

On Wednesday, the Belgian Home Affairs Parliamentary Committee unanimously supported the bill against the religious clothing that they say conceals one’s identity.

After Easter week, the plenary meeting will take the final vote on whether the bill should be passed through Parliament. Belgium is leading the anti-niqab charge among European Union member states with a ferocious move to banning what is often viewed as the oppressive burka and niqab.

The proposal was initiated by the center-right Reform Movement (MP). One of its members, Denis Ducarme, commented by saying that “wearing the burka in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society” and that “it is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and encloses an individual.”

The ban would be imposed in streets, public gardens, sports grounds and buildings “meant for public use or to provide services to the public,” according to the draft bill. Women who flout the ban will face from one to 7 days in jail or a fine of €15 to €25.

Although very few women in Belgium actually wear the veil, a couple of dozen according to the Belgian Muslim council, Belgian authorities see the ban as a security measure after discovering several extremist Islamist organizations in the country and the arrest of several Islamist groups over the last few years.

The most known case is of niqab-wearer Malika al-Aroud, a woman of Moroccan descent who lives in Brussels. She was arrested in 2008 with a group of people suspected of terrorist links. Al-Aroud, the widow of Dahmane Abdal Sattar, who was killed in Afghanistan after he assassinated an anti-Taliban leader, has now transformed herself into one of the most prominent Internet “jihadists” in Europe.

She is currently on trial for allegedly trying to recruit fighters for Afghanistan.

BBC Arabic wrote that observers see that authorities in Belgium and other European countries, who are intending on imposing a ban on the niqab, are encouraged by Islamic institutions in the Arab world like al-Azhar in Cairo, which have issued a number of anti-veil fatwas, or religious opinions, and by the stances taken by some Islamic countries.

Officials have referred frequently to Egypt having banned the wearing of the niqab in schools and universities last year.

In France, President Sarkozy repeated last week that he still intends to impose a ban, although he is having troubles uniting the political parties for his plan to outlaw the niqab.

Belgian political parties have supported the move unanimously.

Republished with permission from Bikya Masr