Belgium: City bans headscarves, draft law to ban burka
Belgium is set to become the first European country to impose a full ban on wearing a burkha.
A parliamentary committee in Belgium has unanimously voted to ban the wearing of full face-covering veils in public, paving the way for the first clampdown of its kind in Europe.
Officials say that the draft law will probably be put to a vote of the full house on April 22.
If passed, it means burkhas, niqabs and other full face veils would be outlawed from the streets, parks, schools and all public buildings.
Three hundred people demonstrated in the center of Brussels last Saturday against a school headscarf ban in Belgium. The organizers said that the debate about the ban has been dictated by an increasing Islamophobia, which they see as a form of racism. The protest slogan was: "School is my right, the veil is my choice".
Kaoutar Boustani, a member of the movement for basic rights, which organized the protest, said that Muslim girls and women wearing the headscarf never caused any legal problems. If certain schools will ban the headscarf, it's a form of racism and will lead to the creation of ghetto schools. [ed: This was actually the reason why two schools in Antwerp decided to ban the headscarf this year, the last to do so.]
The demonstrators were mostly Francophone, but there was also a delegation from Flemish Antwerp.
The municipal council of Charleroi has decided, after a long debate, to forbid teachers in the municipal education system from wearing any external religious or philosophical symbols. The Alderman College of Charleroi decided last week to ask the municipal council to side with the neutrality principle, as decreed by the French Community in 1994.
The decision followed the ruling by the Appeals Court of Bergen, which decided that a math teacher could continue teaching in three municipality schools while wearing a headscarf, since she was not trying to convert the students. The city is appealing, but the teacher could meanwhile continue teaching. This new decision will prevent the teacher from teaching while wearing a headscarf.
The teacher's lawyer will turn to the Council of State to ask to suspend the headscarf ban.
Sources: VRT, HLN 1, 2 (Dutch), Daily Mail