Belgium is set to take a key step today towards banning full Islamic veils from being worn in public places.
A committee of MPs is expected to back the move which would then face a bigger vote in parliament.
Belgium would become the first country in Europe to outlaw the burqa and niqab from its streets.
As feelings run high, a Muslim teacher in Belgium who has fought a legal battle to wear the veil at school was refused access to her classroom on Tuesday.
Over the border, a top advisory body said proposals by France’s government to ban the wearing of full-face veils in public could be unconstitutional. Its report underlines legal headaches surrounding any such legislation. But those urging the broadest possible ban are vowing to fight on.
“MPs are going to assume their responsibilities and ban the full veil from all public spaces,” said Lionnel Luca, an MP from the ruling UMP party.
On the opposition left, however, many denounce moves they see as discriminatory.
“It is not possible to ban the burqa everywhere,” said Socialist MP Pierre Moscovici. “We know it would be a law that would stigmatise. I want the government and president to reflect and not try to make political gains on the back of the law.”
But President Nicolas Sarkozy has already made his feelings clear. He says the full veil is not welcome in France, the country with the biggest Muslim population in Europe.