BRUSSELS – Belgium’s lower house of parliament on Thursday banned burqa-type Islamic dress in public, but the measure faces a challenge in the Senate which will delay early enactment of the law.
Christian Democrats and Liberals in the Senate questioned the phrasing of the law, which holds no one can appear in public “with the face fully or partly covered so as to render them no longer recognizable.”
Following the fall of Premier Yves Leterme’s government April 22, Belgium faces early elections that may delay passage of the Belgian anti-burqa ban – Europe’s first – by several months. Both houses of parliament must approve the bill. Approval in the lower house was almost unanimous.
Like elsewhere in Europe, Belgium struggles with anxieties that visible signs of Islam erode national identity and that women in traditional conservative Islamic dress, such as the burqa, the chador and the niqab, signal a refusal to assimilate in Western society.
The law’s author, Daniel Bacquelaine, a Liberal, said a burqa is incompatible with basic security, as everyone in public must be recognizable.
Burqa-type Islamic dress that fully covers a woman and most or all of her face is not common in Europe.