"We need a law to ban the burqa"

The Prime Minister of the Brussels Region, Charles Picqué (Francophone socialist), has called for legislation to ban the burqa and the niqab, a garment that covers the face entirely except for a small split for the eyes. Mr Picqué was speaking after a court in the Brussels borough of Etterbeek acquitted a woman who was taken to court for wearing the niqab.

The burqa is a long enveloping garment that is worn by Muslim women in public. The niqab is a type of veil worn by some Muslim women that only leaves the eyes uncovered.

The magistrate ruled that a fine for wearing the niqab was not in proportion to the offence. It is understood that the municipal authorities in Etterbeek may appeal against this decision by a police court.

Last year Belgium's Chamber of Representatives approved legislation banning the full veil, but because of the collapse of the federal administration the bill failed to reach the Senate.

The Prime Minister of Brussels says that a ban on the burqa and the niqab is justified because of reasons of safety and because it prevents people from different cultures from living together harmoniously.