Spain is considering a ban on burqas as part of a new security package. Speaking in a press conference, interior minister Jorje Fernández Diaz said that now would be a good time to obtain “a level of consensus” on the proposal.
Seeking to temper his comments, he added “I don’t want to say a ban is necessary”, but then restate that this could be “a good moment” to consider the prohibition, The Local has reported.
It comes as Spain’s parliament debates the draft Citizen Security Law, which already includes a provision to ban people from covering their faces during demonstrations. If members of parliament thought there was will in the country to do so, they may insert a clauses to limit the wearing of burqas, niqabs and other face veils worn by Muslim females, on the grounds that such garments make identification difficult.
The head of Spain’s Islamic Federation, Riay Tatary, retorted that such a ban was “unnecessary” as so few women in Spain wear them.
The regional government of Catalonia is also working on a law to restrict the wearing of burqas and other face coverings “for reasons of public safety”.
Facial coverings, including niqabs, hijabs and other Muslim forms of headdress are already banned in France, Belgium and Italy. The predominantly Muslim countries of Tunisia and Turkey also have bans in place in public spaces such as universities, schools and government buildings.
In July of this year the French ban was tested in the European Court of Human Rights. It was challenged by a 24 year old French citizen of Pakistani origin who wears both the burqa and niqab, leaving only her eyes visible.
She was represented by British lawyers from Birmingham, who claimed that the ban contravened six articles on the European convention, as it was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and discriminatory.”
The judges in the case however did not agree and upheld the French law, accepting Paris’s argument that it encouraged citizens to live together. Since that ruling, other European parliaments have started to explore the option.
Britain currently has no plans to introduce a burqa ban. An e-petition lodged last year on the Government’s website called on the British government to introduce similar legislation reached 13,283 signatures.
The Home Office responded: “The Government does not support a general ban on the wearing of the niqab or other face coverings in public. Such a proscriptive approach would be out of keeping with our nation’s longstanding record of tolerance and freedom of expression. Women should have the freedom to choose what to wear.
“However, there clearly will be circumstances in which covering the face will be inappropriate, and institutions such as hospitals, schools, courts and the border force, as well as employers, should be free to set their own policies accordingly. There needs to be a common-sense balance between cultural practices and the limits imposed by other legitimate interests.
“Equally, the Government wants to see greater integration between communities and is strongly committed to encouraging dialogue and co-operation between people of different cultural backgrounds.”