By a big majority, the Leuven (Belgium) municipal council voted down a proposal of Vlaams Belang last Monday to ban civil servants from wearing Islamic headscarf. Of 45 councilors, only the three present Vlaams Belang councilors supported the proposal. The three councilors of Open Vld abstained and Sp.a-Spiri, CD&V-N-VA and Groen! voted against it.
Hagen Goyvaerts (Vlaams Belang) pointed out that the deontology ethics of civil servants clearly states that they must stay neutral during service hours and may not conduct any religious propaganda. The party sees the Islamic headscarf as such a religous symbol. He says that the proposal will not crush freedom of religion.
Els Van Hoof (CD&V) agreed that the pulbic service must be neutral, but this must relate to the behavior of the civil servants at the counter and not to their clothing. Such a ban would make it much harder for immigrant women to go to work.
Fatiha Dahmani (Groen!) also thought that external appearance was not important, but rather it's the way the job is done. She says immigrant women must diecde on their own if they wear religious symbols. Stijn Bex (Spirit) said such a ban would be counter-productive for the emancipation opportunities of these women.
Hans Bracquené (Open Vld) said is party supported such a strict neutrality of civil servants in the religious field. Wearing a headscarf in public contact is not allowed according to him. Luc Bellens (N-VA) also supported it. He did not vote out of protest for the way Vlaams Belang is abusing this problem in order to profile themselves on top of a population group.
Mayor Louis Tobback (sp.a) refused to have any discussion about this with the Vlaams Belang and did not state his opinion during the council session. Earlier Monday he had called the VB proposal "pure propagandistic and sheer nonsense". According to Tobback such proposals are only made in order to use the current fear against Islam. Such a ban would be bad for the emancipation of immigrant women.
Source: HLN (Dutch)