Belgium poised to ban wearing of burka in public
THE FIRST European ban on the wearing of the Islamic burka in public is poised to come into force in Belgium.
A parliamentary vote on a Bill which bans face coverings has raised fears among Muslim groups and human rights campaigners that other countries could follow suit. France is already considering similar legislation.
"We are the first country to break through the chain that has kept countless women enslaved," said Denis Ducarme, a Belgian Liberal party MP.
He said that he hoped other European countries would follow Belgium's example.
Members of the Belgian House of Representatives called a truce to weeks of bitter feuding caused by the collapse of the government to push through the vote, giving it almost unanimous, cross-party support.
The measure now has to be rubber-stamped by the Senate after June general elections to become law.
Amnesty International condemned the move as "an attack on religious freedom". Philippe Hensmans, of Amnesty Belgium, said it had been pushed through without a proper national debate.
He said: "It's also not at all clear that it is in line with the Belgian constitution and with international human rights conventions."
Meanwhile in France any man who forces his wife to wear a full Muslim veil will be given a sentence of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of €15,000 under new legislation expected to come into force in the summer.
The bill also envisages a €150 fine for women who choose to wear the face veil in public. "No one may wear in public places clothes that are aimed at hiding the face," says the text leaked to 'Le Figaro', the French daily newspaper .