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Belgium’s burqa ban opens a racial pandora’s box

May 8

Full Article: Belgium’s burqa ban opens a racial pandora’s box – thestar.com.

BRUSSELS—For its backers, Belgium’s proposed ban on full-faced coverings is a bold step for public security and women’s rights, one they say would liberate Muslims from the “walking prison” of their burqas.

But critics say the growing trend to ban burqas and niqabs is bringing Europe face-to-face with an ugly truth — growing anti-Muslim sentiments that threaten to divide communities across the continent.

Belgium made history last month when it became the first European nation to ban in public spaces full-face coverings that makes identification impossible. It’s a decision that effectively makes it illegal to wear a burka, or other Islamic dress that covers the face.

People who breach the law, which has sparked the ire of human rights groups, could face a fine of between 15 to 25 euros and a jail term of up to seven days.

The draft bill, not due to become law until summer, still faces several hurdles, including possible challenges that it violates human rights laws.

But its backers claim only the best of intentions, saying that full-face coverings are a security risk and violate a woman’s rights.

“We think in the 21st century it’s not possible to accept that the woman will be slave to a question of religion,” Ducarme said.

He tries to defuse suggestions that the ban is taking aim at Islam, saying burqas and niqabs are not religious obligations for Muslim women.

“We respect the Muslim religion. It’s not Islam. It’s just a sectarian behaviour imported from Pakistan, Afghanistan and it’s not an obligation in the Koran,” Ducarme said.

And she noted that under a ban, there’s a fear that some women may actually be housebound, unwilling to go out or forbidden by family members.

The ban comes against a backdrop of other developments that some see as evidence of an anti-immigrant sentiment taking root in Europe.

Late last year, Swiss voters approved a constitutional ban on minarets, barring construction of the mosque towers.

Full Article: Belgium’s burqa ban opens a racial pandora’s box – thestar.com.

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