Spain may ban burqas in public, says Interior minister

Poll shows 90% of citizens support move

04 September, 16:02

    A French woman wearing the niqab, a veil that covers the whole face, with the exception of the eyes A French woman wearing the niqab, a veil that covers the whole face, with the exception of the eyes

    (by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) - MADRID, SEPTEMBER 4 - A ban on wearing burqas or any veil that conceals the entire face may be included into a public security law that Spain's parliament is expected to pass soon, announced Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz on Thursday.

    ''We have the draft Citizen Security Law in the Congress right now, and perhaps it is the right time for the issue'' of a full-face veil ban, the minister said. A burqa, said Fernandez Diaz, ''is an attack on women's dignity'' and is a problem ''from a security point of view, since it makes it difficult to identify a person who may have been the perpetrator of a crime.'' The Citizen Security Law, which has sparked criticism from opposition parties, establishes administrative sanctions for those who take part in protests with their faces covered, wearing helmets, scarves or ski masks in such a way as to prevent their identification. ''This does not mean that it is necessary'' to bring in a ban on the burqa specifically, the minister said, but it ''could be an opportunity'' to do so. This view was echoed by Ramon Espadaler, the 'conseller' of the interior ministry for the Catalonia government, which on Wednesday passed the first draft of a regional law on the protection of public spaces. The law, which regulates street vendors, prostitution and protests, does not contain a specific ban on burqas in public. ''It will be prohibited to conceal one's identity in demonstrations or to hinder the work of the Catalan police in identifying protestors,'' Espadaler said. ''But the restriction on wearing a full-face veil does not apply to the streets in general. It is only in certain public spaces for public security. The Generalitat does not have the authority to regulate an issue that affects fundamental rights, and even if we wanted to, we couldn't prohibit the use of burqas in the streets.'' In addition to rekindling debate, the government initiative has sparked reactions from Muslim associations in Spain. According to the head of the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE) and head of the Union of Islamic Communities (UCIDE), Riary Tatari, there is ''no need'' for a ban, thereby ''creating a precedent in Spain on a matter that is not widespread'', since ''most of the women who wear a full-face veil are foreigners visiting the country and not residents anyway.'' Tatary noted that the burqa is not Muslim in origins, that it comes from a specific tribe in Afghanistan, and that ''it is necessary to differentiate between traditions and religion''. ''The religious precept,'' he said, ''calls for the head to be covered, not for clothes that cover the entire body.'' The representative of Spain's Muslim community agrees that burqas are ''an attack on women's dignity'', but says that the matter should not be dealt with through a ban. ''It is a matter of dialogue,'' he said, noting that the law already requires women to have their head uncovered in photographs on identity cards. The head of the Europa Laica association, Francisco Delgado, says that the use of the full-face veil ''is indefensible in educational and healthcare environments, since these are places where it is necessary to see and recognize faces to work, assist and engage with the public''. However, he said, it is a phenomenon ''that is not of concern, since it is very limited in Spain''. The population is also staunchly against the use of burqas in public: 90% support the ban, according to polls published in several media outlets, including Huffington Post. (ANSAmed).

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