Muslims, academics and human rights groups have hit out at a looming public ban in Belgium on the full face veil, following a decision in the country’s parliament to make the wearing of the article of clothing illegal.
“I think they’re trying to wind us up,” Souad Barlabi, a young woman wearing a simple veil, said outside the Grand Mosque in Brussels, the Belgian capital, around the time of Friday prayers. “We feel under attack,” she said.
Amnesty International, a human rights group, said the measures must be reviewed by the upper house of parliament as they raise concerns about whether Belgium is in breach of international rights laws.
“A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s expert on discrimination in Europe. “The Belgian move to ban full face veils, the first in Europe, sets a dangerous precedent.”
In Le Soir, a French newspaper, Michael Privot, an Islamic scholar, said Belgium “now joins Iran and Saudi Arabia in that exclusive but unenviable rare club of countries to impose a dress code in the public domain”.