In Belgium, Parliament is set to create European history. MPs will, today start a debate over legislation to ban Islamic face covering veils in public spaces.
The move to outlaw the niqab, has the support of all the country’s major parties but has split Muslims in Belgium with many women outraged at the proposal.
“Its a law that goes against human and citizen rights, goes against Islam and Muslims. It forbids us, Muslim women, to dress as we like,” remarked one Muslim living in the country.
Wearing the full face-veil is deeply controversial across the 27 EU member states and Belgium could be the first country to impose a law. The vote today is the first stage in that process. Supporters say the legislation is critical for social integration.
“It’s about living together. If you have the possibility to see my face, I should be able to see yours,” explained Belgium MP Xavier Baeselen
France has led the way in Europe on the debate to ban woman wearing the Islamic veil in public places and on Wednesday President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke out in favour of legislation. The government will examine a draft bill in May.
“We are going to propose a bill that has a large part centred on the dignity of a person, on the
equality between man and women in society and we are ready to take some legal risks because we think its worth it,” said François Fillon the Prime Minister of France.
In France polls have shown most voters back a ban but legal experts have warned it could violate the constitution.
That is not the case in Belgium where the move to outlaw veils in public could become law within months.