Thursday, August 25, 2016


Belgian Face-Veil Ban Goes Into Effect

A Muslim woman dressed in niqab walks through the streets of Brussels.
A Muslim woman dressed in niqab walks through the streets of Brussels.
By Rikard Jozwiak
On July 23, Belgium became the second European country after France to ban the wearing of veils covering the face in public.

The Belgian parliament passed the law by a vote of 149-1 in April 2010. But due to the fall of the government shortly thereafter and an inconclusive election that left the country with a caretaker government, its implementation was delayed until now.

The law does not explicitly mention niqabs or burqas. But it prohibits the covering of one's face in public for security reasons -- effectively banning the two Islamic garments. Violators will face fines of 137.50 euros ($197.50) and up to seven days in jail.

Support for the legislation crossed the ideological spectrum, with supporters calling it an effort to promote gender equality.

"I think we have to defend our fundamental principles of the Enlightenment. Man and women are equal in all aspects," said Peter Dedecker, a lawmaker from the center-right New Flemish Alliance.

Dedecker added that the new legislation was also "for safety reasons," as anyone could be hiding behind and concealing anything underneath veiled clothing. "People just feel unsafe when they are in a mass with people with burqas," he said.

Dedecker also stressed that he supports religious freedom, albeit within limits.

"Of course people have the freedom of religion," he said "We don't have anything against Islam, for example, but I don't think that the burqa is a key value of Islam.... It is just crazy that women should hide their faces, should hide their body because some men can't control themselves."

'There Are Limits' To Religious Freedom

Leen Dierick, a member of parliament with the Christian Democratic Party, agreed with Dedecker.

"Everybody has the right to have a religion and has a right to believe," she said. "But there are limits to it and covering the face is for us the limit here in Belgium."

The only person voting against the law was Eva Brems, a legislator from the Green Party.

A professor of human rights law, Brems said she was convinced that the legislation violates basic human rights and points to the fact that her stand is backed by both the Council of Europe and rights groups, including Amnesty International.

Brems said she also hoped that some of the Muslim women affected "will challenge this law before the Constitutional Court and that it will be annulled that way."

She is also concerned by the way the law was rushed through the chamber without holding hearings with members of the Muslim community or civil society.

It is estimated that only 28-200 women in the entire country actually wear burqas or niqabs.

Brems also questioned the law's constitutionality and maintained that it was "badly drafted."

"It is a very problematic law also from a purely legalistic viewpoint," she said. "It does not only apply to Islamic face-covering veils, it applies to appearing in the public in such as way that your face is not recognizable with only very few exceptions. So actually if this law is strictly applied we will end up in ridiculous situations where people organizing games for kids, dressing up like clowns will be punished."

A Tiny Minority Is Affected

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the law is that it affects such a small minority.

Some 600,000 of Belgium's 11 million inhabitants are Muslims, but the vast majority of these are from North Africa, where the culture of women covering their faces is rare.

Various estimates show that there only are between 28 and 200 women in the entire country that wear the soon-to-be prohibited garment.

Despite this, Mustafa Kastit, an imam at the largest mosque in Brussels, believes the law could have negative consequences for the Muslim community in Belgium as a whole:

"We regret the adoption of this law which risks stigmatizing the Muslim community even more," he said. "It also risks strengthening the climate of fear, the climate of Islamophobia that seems to be taking root in more and more Western countries."

A Brussels native, Kastit maintains that tolerance has always been a hallmark of Belgian society and politics, and that the country was " also a society of compromise."

"Belgian politics and the mood in Belgium have always been distinguished by a search for an absolute compromise," he said "Everyone tries to [ensure their interests] but without risking the community spirit and the security of the citizens."

Brems agrees, despite the fact that one Belgian newspaper likened her opposition to the law to defending the Nazis.

"My theory behind this is that is not a matter of increased Islamophobia. It is about a tension in society with Islam [and] with multiculturalism in general that tries to find a way to manifest itself," she said.

"We are no longer accepting, luckily, manifest discrimination against moderate or regular Islam. People feel that they should be allowed to be intolerant vis-a-vis a more radical Islam."
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Jack from: US
July 23, 2011 15:46
what else can testify more to depravity, hateful and despicable nature of Islam than niqab worn by Muslim women?

by: Anonymous
July 23, 2011 18:22
Every time there is a debate about women's and minority's rights, their voice is always left unheard. Good job Belgium, you're now telling women what they can or cannot wear, just like Saudi Arabia or Iran!

by: ddd from: usa
July 23, 2011 22:41
very degrading practice has nothing to do with modesty in asking or forcing a woman to veil her face. indeed it is way to force submission and control over those they really treat as second-class citizens in their religion. thank goodness there are at least a few muslim nations that are much more moderate. belgium has every right to enforce laws that forbid one from masking their identity.

by: Abdullah from: Afghanistan
July 24, 2011 06:36
Wearing veil is not covering of identity. The Europe talks of democracy, but banning veil is not democracy. Muslims dont want to be unveiled like Europe porns, who make sex on the streets.
The delegate dont have logical reasons for that, so the do everything by force.
In Response

by: chris from: New Zealand
July 24, 2011 11:53
Muslims always hide behind democracy when somethings happens in Europe
In Response

by: Caucasus
July 24, 2011 16:18
@ chris from: New Zealand

Chris you must be a Māori. Oh, wait a minute are you not? So, tell me how the native population of Māori declined and was replaced by Europeans in New Zeland. We all want to hear that story. Also, if you have a knowledge please do tell us how hundreds of millions of Native Americans ended up dead in Americas. Remember your name is after Jesus (PBUH) and he was NOT a two-faced LIAR.
In Response

by: LoL from: EU
July 24, 2011 19:49
@Abudallah: Plz tell where this is, I wanna go....?????
In Response

by: leciat from: usa
July 25, 2011 20:43
if muslims don't want to be unveiled like the decadent ignorant infidel then i suggest you stay in your own backward barbaric misogynist countries and stay the hell out of ours
In Response

by: Caucasus
July 27, 2011 02:26
I suggest you live Americas to the Native Americans go back to your backward country.

by: Steve from: England
July 24, 2011 10:17
I was in Belgium in May. I saw no one having "sex in the streets". Such a stereo-typical viewpoint of a Muslim male. Lets hear from Muslim females! Women have a right to have their face uncovered. The fact that France and Belgium have banned face coverings is really a reaction to the terrorism carried out in the name of Allah. But the thing that irks me most is that these "terrorists" say that they will go to heaven and have 74 virgins!! There proof, if ever needed, that many Muslim males have a very very distasteful view of women.

by: Pavel from: London
July 24, 2011 11:23
Responding to Abdulla: Democracy is the what the majority of what the people want, so on that definition then if the majority want a ban then it IS democracy. What people are scared of is a Muslim theocracy taking over another country. Of course the whole thing is reminiscent of Macarthyism that was in response to the threat of Communism in the 1950s in America, in that it is anti-freedom on one, in the name of protecting freedom. What needs to happen is a broader law that makes un-lawful attemps to implement Sharia law in Western democracies. In that way a few hundred women aren't treated harshly, but rather the law is brought to bear on those who have a subversive intent.

by: LoL from: EU
July 24, 2011 19:48
@Abudullah: Come to think of it I have never heard what a burka covered women thinks of this. Its always the men who tells the public what they want and don't want. And I find your disrespect funny: I have never had sex exactly on the street, preferably in a back ally standing on a bible and screaming atheist remarks. Get you facts straight:-). LoLoL.

by: Iftikhar Ahmad from: London
July 24, 2011 21:00
Dr. Mehmood Khalid, Spokesperson and Deputy Chief of Advocacy Unit of International Imam Organization called upon the Government of Belgium about the shocking news Ban on Burqa for women in public places.

Dr. Mehmood highlighted the government about the importance of Burqa in Islam. Burqa represents the ideology of Muslim's worldwide. But by imposing a ban on it, is not only distressing but disgraceful for the Islamic community residing in the country as well as outside. Everyone has right to follow their religious values. He urged the Government of Belgium to re-consider their decision as well as also consider the Islamic Organizations like Islamic Cultural Centre for advice on how to adjust with such sanctions.

The government of Belgium should also take a public opinion before establishing such laws. Instead of taking such measures the Government should launch programs for integration of Muslims into belgium and implement open door policy so that all religion get to keep their idea. In fact the Government should fight for the ideological struggle, as it is undemocratic and against the freedom of an individual.

Muslim Women maintains the dignity and sanctity of their religion sentiments. So why is the Government of Belgium then forcing the muslim women not wear burqa. These measures or legislations will only create more tension between Islam and the West. We all should work together and increase the brotherhood and parity between Islam and other faiths instead of barging out with such legal sanction. This is the time too create harmony and peace and to welcome all religions with open arms.

by: AM from: US
July 25, 2011 07:21
I am a (practicing) Muslim woman that doesn't like the niqab/burqa either. Niqabs or burqas are not part of Islamic teachings. Dressing modestly and covering the hair are encouraged, but full face-coverings are more of a cultural product. I do have to say that I don't wear the hijab, but I support the right of women to wear it. If there was going to be a law banning the hijab I would be against it.
I understand why some Muslims would be upset with this law from Belgium; it does impose on some Muslims' way of life, but even I feel slightly uncomfortable around niqab wearers.
I do agree with Brems on some points though. Everyone should have the right to wear/cover what they want, but I also understand the need to pass this law.

by: a woman, a European from: Oxford
July 25, 2011 08:44
To all those who criticise the ban in Belgium. Don't yuo think there are limits to what should be tolerated? Or else, where do we end?
Comments page of 2

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