Brussels, Apr.30 (ANI): Belgium is set to become the first country in Europe to ban the burqa after the country's parliament voted on Thursday night to prohibit the wearing of the face-covering Islamic veil in public.
According to The Telegraph,no lawmaker voted against the ban on clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified, including full-face Muslim dress such as the niqab or burqa. There were two abstentions.
Supporters said the law would help fight terrorism and grant rights to Muslim women.
It quoted Daniel Bacquelaine, one of the liberal MPs who originally called for the ban, as insisting that the new law was "aimed at stopping people from not being identified".
"It's not about introducing any form of discrimination," he said.
The ban, which is thought to affect around 100 women, would be imposed in streets, public gardens and sports grounds or buildings "meant for public use or to provide services".
Those Muslims who ignore the ban could face fines of 22 pounds and a jail sentence of up to a week unless they have written police permission to wear the garments.
Controversy has raged elsewhere in Europe over the wearing of Muslim veils in public.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared the burqa not welcome in France, calling it an affront to French values that denigrates women. He is pressing ahead with a bill to ban it, despite advice that such a law could be illegal.
But Human Rights Watch has said that there is no evidence that banning the full veil would protect public safety or the rights of Muslim women.
"Bans like this lead to a lose-lose situation," said Judith Sunderland, senior researcher at HRW.
"They violate the rights of those who choose to wear the veil and do nothing to help those who are compelled to do so," she added. (ANI)