Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE ISLAMIC VEIL: State of play in Europe

A ban on the wearing of the full Islamic veil is being studied in several European countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria. In France a parliamentary commission is due to present a much-awaited report on Tuesday, which is expected to recommend that new legislation be enacted to ban the full veil, known as the burqa or niqab, in public places.

THE STATE OF PLAY IN WESTERN EUROPE:

THE NETHERLANDS: several draft laws concerning the wearing of the veil are in the pipeline, including a measure which would ban the garment for teachers. Another draft aims at a ban concerning civil servants.

DENMARK: The government is currently discussing the possibility of limiting wearing of the veil in public places, including school and courts. It is awaiting the opinion of a government commission before deciding.

ITALY: A 1975 law, aimed at protecting public order, makes it illegal to cover one’s face in public places. The provision applies equally to the veil and motorcycle helmets. Some mayors from the anti-immigrant Northern League have banned the wearing of the full veil, and the Islamic swimsuit, locally.

BRITAIN: The education ministry in March 2007 published directives allowing directors of public establishments and denominational schools to ban the niqab, after several high-profile court cases.

AUSTRIA: Social Democratic Women’s Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek launched the debate recently and is mulling a ban on the full Islamic veil in public spaces if the number of women veiled from head to toe increases dramatically.

FRANCE: In 2004 it passed a law banning headscarves or any other “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools.

BELGIUM: numerous districts ban the full veil in public places under local laws and police ban the wearing of masks in the street except during the period of carnival. AFP

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