Belgium moves closer to banning veil

Belgium has taken a major step toward banning burqa-type Islamic dress in public when its lower house of parliament overwhelmingly backed the measure.

After Thursday’s approval, the senate still has several weeks to decide whether to put the bill up for further discussion and another vote.

The Belgian legislature already came close to approving such legislation last year, but the process was held up at the last moment when the governing coalition collapsed.

On Thursday, the bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of 136-1 and two abstentions.

Associated Press, 28 April 2011

Update:  See also the statement by the far-right alliance, Cities Against Islamisation, which declares itself “satisfied with Burka ban in Belgium”. Its chairman, Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang, is quoted as saying: “Burka ban is just the first step, the recognition and subsidising of Islam in Belgium has to be revoked. Islam doesn’t belong on European soil.”

The statement adds: “The vote also illustrates once again the pioneering role that parties like the Vlaams Belang and others play. Cities Against Islamisation hopes the burka ban in Belgium may lead to the reduction and forcing back of Islam. After this first symbolic victory the next step is to undo the recognition and subsidizing of Islam. Islam is a totalitarian conquestial religion, a threat to our European values and our western way of life.”