Belgium is heading toward becoming the first European country to ban women from wearing burqas in public after its Parliament voted Thursday to ban the Muslim full-face veil.
Lawmakers contend that the ban would improve security and allow police to identify people, and eliminate a form of repression in Belgium. The hijab, which covers a women's hair, would still be allowed.
The sponsors of the measure genuinely feel they are doing this to help women, Teri Schultz, GlobalPost's EU correspondent based in Brussels, told us by telephone. "They feel that this is a sign of oppression, and that if these women are not allowed to wear the burqa they won't have to wear it and they can walk around freely."
But the Muslim population, which is growing in Western Europe, views it as an anti-Islamic move that could create its own form of repression by punishing women for wearing the garment outside, she said. Under the law, women who wear burqas could be fined 15 to 25 euros (about $20 to $33) and jailed for up to seven days.
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