Belgian Parliament backs burqa ban

Late yesterday, the House of Representatives of the Belgian Federal Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of introducing legislation that bans the burqa-type Islamic dress in public. The bill was approved by a majority of 136-1 and only had two abstentions.

Actually, the Lower House had already approved the bill about one year ago, but the process was held up at the last moment when the government coalition collapsed. In order to avoid legal problems, the Lower House of the federal caretaker government of Yves Leterme (Flemish Christian democrat) voted once again.

This time, only one MP voted against, Eva Brems of the green party Groen! There were also two abstentions by two members of the Francophone greens of Ecolo.

The issue sparked a lot of debate over the past few years. Supporters of a ban say that it symbolises the oppression of Islamic women and also cite security reasons. Others claim that the women should have a free choice of their own, and that Islamic women might no longer have the permission of their family to leave the house now.

Belgium is only the second country to ban the burqa-type dress in public, after France. The Belgian Senate still has time to decide whether to put the bill up for further discussion, but no major problems are expected.