Spain’s interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz on Wednesday said the Spanish government would consider including a ban on burqas as part of a packet of planned new security reforms.
Speaking at a press conference, Díaz said that a ban on burqas could be included in the final version of Spain’s draft Citizen Security Law, Spain’s 20 minutos newspaper reported.
The draft bill, yet to be passed in the country’s parliament, already includes provisions banning people from hiding their faces in demonstrations, Díaz noted.
Now could be a “good moment” to look to obtain “a level of consensus” on this issue, the interior minister noted.
Díaz stressed his department had no powers when it came to issues affecting the dignity of women, but could rule against the wearing of burqas and other full face veils on the grounds they made identification of people difficult.
“I don’t want to say a ban is necessary, ” the minister said, but repeated this could be “a good moment” to consider such a prohibition.
The Reus city council, in the Catalan province of Tarragona, on Friday approved new bylaws that will ban people from wearing a burqa, niqab or any other kind of full face veil in public places.
The measure is the first to go so far in Spain, given that other such local legislation had only banned such clothing on municipal-owned premises.
The measure was passed thanks to votes from the coalition government in the city council, made up of the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the Catalan nationalist bloc CiU. The opposition parties – including the Catalan Socialists, PSC – all voted against the measure.
The local government had called for the prohibition based on criteria of “security” and “coexistence.”
CiU and the PP initially wanted to introduce fines of €750 for wearing this clothing, but the mayor, Carles Pellicer (CiU), and the deputy mayor, Alicia Alegret (PP), [pictured] admitted that they would not be able to apply such penalties. The police will simply have powers to identify anyone who has their face covered in public spaces.
“According to a sentence from the Supreme Court from February 13, 2013, municipal powers do not allow for fines for people with their face covered due to religious reasons,” a juridical report commissioned by the PSC reads. “If the municipal authority does not observe this limitation to its powers to levy fines, it could be committing the offense of perversion of justice.”
Reus says that it is backed by a recent sentence issued by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which backed a similar ban in France.
The government of Spain’s Catalonia region said on Thursday it would push ahead with a planned burqa ban after a recent European Union ruling that banning full face veils in public did not violate the human rights of Muslim women.
The Catalan Government first announced its controversial plans to control the wearing of burqas and other face-covering attire in public spaces “for reasons of public safety” in 2013. The move had nothing to do with religion and would also see the public wearing of garments including helmets and masks banned, Ramon Espadaler, Interior Minister for Catalonia, announced at the time.
On Thursday, Espadaler said the Catalan government would the begin of process of getting the bill approved in the regional parliament after the summer 2014 recess, Spain’s Cuatro TV channel reported.
The recent EU ruling that France’s ban on full-face veils like the burqa and the niqab in public was legal had opened up a “new perspective” on the proposed law in Catalonia, said the minister responding to a question in the Catalan parliament. This meant the region could now leglisate against such face covering from a human rights perspective as well from a safety angle, Espadaler said.
The minister also pointed out the Catalan government wanted to legislate on the issue because previous attempts to do so by individual Catalan towns had been thwarted by Spain’s courts.
On the eve of elections to the European Parliament, the Pew Research Center has published its latest report on public opinion in the EU. It is based on face-to-face and telephone surveys in seven countries: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Spanish campaigners accuse the country’s Catholic Church of trying to cover up the Islamic history of Cordoba Cathedral, a world heritage site that was originally a mosque. It is one of the most famous Islamic sites in Europe, but those coming to learn about that are left none the wiser by the information leaflets given out to tourists, critics say.
“For the citizens of Cordoba, what has hurt our feelings is that they have cut off the name and the memory of the monument,” said Antonio Manuel Rodriguez, a law professor at Cordoba University. He is a member of a secular group of local campaigners who have gathered 146,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the common Islamic and Christian heritage of the site be recognised. The acclaimed British architect Norman Foster is among the signatories, as well as many Spanish writers and scientists and moderate Catholics.
Catalan cops are keeping a close eye on Muslim women wearing full-body veils to determine whether they are linked to any radical Islamist groups in the region.
Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police are taking a census of every Muslim woman wearing a niqab or burqa. Whenever they see a woman wearing a full-body veil which also covers their faces, by taking down their details and passing it on to the local authorities. “Catalan police have always been convinced that niqab-bearing women can be indicative of a radical or Salafist branch of Islam,” Spain’s Interior ministry explained.
On July 18th, the Catalan Parliament approved a motion which bans people from covering their faces if deemed a security risk. Several political parties in the region are now pushing for the law to apply to Muslim head gear, which would prohibit its usage in public spaces across Catalonia.
The Local, 27 August 2013
The Catalan Government has announced plans to control the wearing of burqas and other face-covering attire in public spaces “for reasons of public safety”.
The proposed rule will also control the public wearing of other garments including helmets and masks, Ramon Espadaler, Interior Minister for Catalonia, announced in the autonomous region’s parliament on Wednesday. A full debate will follow the introduction of the public safety motion designed to combat people concealing their faces in public places.
Espadaler argued that it had nothing to do with “religious issues”, according to Catalan daily La Vanguardia. “It is not a general prohibition. That would lead us nowhere and we would be infringing on fundamental rights,” he said. He added: “We want to be sensitive” and urged a “careful, subtle and clear debate” to find a “consensus”.
Maxim Ferschtman and Cristina de la Serna provide a detailed analysis of the Spanish Supreme Court’s recent judgement overturning the “burqa ban” in the Catalonian city of Lleida. They argue that the ruling “could provide a precedent to prevent broader bans at both the local and the national level”.
Open Society Foundations, 22 March 2013
A Spanish court has overturned a city’s ban on wearing face-covering Islamic veils in municipal buildings, saying it infringes religious liberties.
In 2010, Lleida, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, became the first town in Spain to impose such a ban. It was temporarily suspended by a regional court following an appeal by a Muslim association but then later upheld.
Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday accepted a second appeal and said the city was not entitled to order such a ban. It said that in line with Spanish and European rulings, such a prohibition must be based on a law, which does not exist in Spain at present.
The Lleida ban was largely symbolic since only about 3 percent of its population is Muslim and very few wear such garments.
Associated Press, 28 February 2013
The Balearic Islands daily Última Hora reports that a mosque in the Mallorca town of Sa Pobla has been sprayed with graffiti featuring a picture of an explosive device accompanied by the word “bomb”. The entrance to the building has also been marked with an “X” on the ground. It is suggested that the graffiti may have been in response to a court decision to release two minors who had been accused of rape.