Belgium’s Parliamentary Vote
The Washington Post, as well as a number of other organizations, recently reported on Belgium’s pending legislation. On Thursday April 29, the Belgian lower house of parliament “approved a bill to ban wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.” Neither the upper house nor the Senate is expected to block the bill’s passing, but Belgium’s government problems at large could clearly delay the coming-months’ proceedings.
A Legal Justification for Restricting the Religious Practice?
Sky News explains that the nationwide ban simply prohibits “clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified.” Safety reasons have been cited by the bill’s proponents with some who think of the ban as a “critical security measure that will prevent Muslim radicals from hiding behind veils” (VOA News).
What Individual Rights Are Worth Protecting?
Sky News explains that the “full-face niqab and burqa worn by some muslim women are not a mandatory requirement for the religion of Islam, but one of personal choice.” I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of Islam, or face veils or the Belgian bill, but I like what the Vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium had to say: “Today it’s the full-face veil, tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini-skirts.”
As an American in a post-9/11 world, I have come to accept having limited freedoms at places like the airport. I understand the importance of cooperating with officials and try to do just that. But, I cannot fathom being restricted from wearing a religious garment in all public places.
A Step Forward for Women’s Rights?
VOA News explains that many are actually hailing the political vote as a move that reinforces women’s rights.
Even if oppression really is at the heart of the matter for some, how will it help to make these already-powerless women less free to appear in public? If maltreatment dictated what they wore, won’t maltreatment now require these women to be confined to their homes?
And what about women who joyfully wear such apparel in reverence to God?
My heart aches for the oppressed, yes, but it also aches to think that there are democratic governments that actually work to make women of faith feel more uncomfortable and more unwelcome in their communities.
“Belgian Parliament Votes to Ban Wearing of Veil.” TheWashingtonPost.
“Belgium Decides To Ban The Burqa.” SkyNews.
“Belgium’s Parliament Votes to Ban Veils.” VOANews.
“CIA — The World Factbook — Field Listing: Government Type.” CIA.gov.