Belgium’s third largest city Ghent has banned its employees from wearing Muslim headscarves and other religious or political symbols. The proposal by the Flemish liberal party was approved in the city council by 26 votes to 23.
All city personnel, such as librarians and child care workers, will not be allowed to wear such garments or symbols if they come into contact with the public. The council voted 26 to 23 late on Monday for the ban, with the Liberals, Christian Democrats and far-right Vlaams Belang in favour and the socialists and Greens against.
“It is really not clear who counts as an employee in contact with the public, but we will have to carry it out,” said a spokesman.
The city has 4,700 employees and is aware of two women wearing headscarves who work on counters dealing with the public. It was possible they might be offered work elsewhere, the spokesman said. The ban would not affect teachers and police officers.
The ban in Ghent follows a similar ban earlier this year in Belgium’s second city Antwerp. Antwerp has since decided that Muslim women in nurseries would be allowed to cover their heads with bandanas instead of headscarves.