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article imageBelgian Parliament votes to ban burqa

By Andrew Moran     Apr 29, 2010 in World
Brussels - Belgium's lower house of Parliament has voted in favor of a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic burqa and niqab in public, which could make Belgium the first European nation to implement such a law.
On Thursday, Parliament’s lower house in Belgium voted in favor of a law that would ban Muslim women from wearing the full burqa in public, according to the Associated Press. If implemented, Belgium will be the first European country to do so.
However, the legislation could face a tough challenge in the Senate because of the phrasing of the measure, which states no one can appear in public “with the face fully or partly covered so as to render them no longer recognizable.”
The Press Association reports that the legislation’s author, Daniel Bacquelaine, believes the burqa is incompatible with the general public’s security as everyone must be recognizable. The Islamic burqa covers a woman’s face.
The law also wants to ban women wearing the niqab, the face veil which leaves slits for the eyes.
If the law passes, those who violate the ban would be fined $20 or imprisoned.
Proponents of the bill believe it reinforces women’s rights and is an important security measure but critics feel it violates freedom of expression. Amnesty International denounced the vote.
“Clearly, it's not a welcoming message. It's an attempt by certain parts of the population, certain political parties, to draw a line in the sand, as it were, and say, 'Beyond this point, we shan't be accepting your cultural or religious practices,’” said Amnesty International's John Dalhuisen, reports Voice of America.
Passage of the burqa ban could be delayed for quite some time as Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s government fell last week on Apr. 22.
In 2009, 29 women were fined for wearing a burqa-type dress.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will submit similar legislation next month.
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