European rights court upholds Belgian face veil ban



Tue, 11 Jul 2017 - 06:01 GMT


Tue, 11 Jul 2017 - 06:01 GMT

Woman in Niqab - REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Woman in Niqab - REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

CAIRO – 11 July 2017: On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld Belgium’s ban on the Islamic full-face veil, rejecting a legal challenge by two Muslim women who wear the full-face veil. Violations can result in fines with up to seven days in jail.

The court argued that the controversial ban was “necessary in a democratic society” and said it does not violate the rights to private and family life or freedom of religion. The court added that the ban guarantees the conditions of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

The ban came into effect in 2011.

The 2011 Belgian law bans clothing that partly or totally covers the face. The court said its decision goes in line with the law and does not disproportionately discriminate against the Muslim community.

“The question whether the full-face veil was accepted in the Belgian public sphere was… a choice of society,” the ECHR said in a statement.

According to the Independent, the ruling said the Belgian government had been responding “to a practice that it considered to be incompatible, in Belgian society, with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society…essential to ensure the functioning of a democratic society.”

The case was brought by two Muslim women, Samia Belcacemi, a Belgian national, and Yamina Oussar, a Moroccan national. Both women said they chose to wear the veil of their own free will and said their rights had been infringed upon and that the law was discriminatory.

According to the court’s statement, Oussar told the court that she decided to stay at home.

Islamic full-face veils have become very controversial in European debates related to extremism, freedom and integration in the last few years. France was the first to implement a nationwide full-face veil ban in April 2011. In 2014, the ECHR upheld a similar ban on full-face veils in France. Belgium and Bulgaria followed, with partial or regional prohibitions now in place in Italy, Spain, Denmark and Switzerland. The German, Austrian and Dutch parliaments have voted in support of a partial ban on full-face Islamic veils, but no laws have yet come into force.

In March, Europe's top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), ruled that workplace bans on the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign" such as headscarves need not constitute direct discrimination. However, it said such bans must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to "dress neutrally."



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