NIX TO THE NIQAB
BARCELONA BANS THE BURQA
Barcelona is set to become the first Spanish city to ban Islamic face veils and full body burqas in public buildings, including markets, hospitals, and libraries.
The city’s municipal government announced the prohibition which will take effect in September.
“Barcelona will forbid the use of the burqa, niqab and any other item which hinders personal identification in any of the city’s public installations,” the government statement said.
Alberto Fernandez Diaz, a city councilman and member of the conservative Popular Party, proclaimed on his website that “the use of the burqa and niqab undermines the dignity and freedom of women”.
“The mayoral decree is only a half-measure,” he complained, “because as well as forbidding the burqa and niqab in public installations, it is necessary to forbid it on the street,” he added.
Last year, Mr. Fernandez-Diaz was responsible for halting the construction of a massive mosque in the midst of Barcelona.
Face veils are banned in all public spaces in the relatively small towns of Lerida and El Vendrell, which like Barcelona are in the northeastern region of Catalonia in Spain.
Jordi Hereu, Barcelona’s mayor, has resisted calls to impose a ban on full face veils in all public spaces in Spain’s second-largest city. He said such a measure would be beyond the jurisdiction of a municipal government.
Barcelona is presently home for 300,000 Muslims. The city’s Islamic community dates back to 1967, when Barcelona became the first stop for the North African migrant population on their way to Western Europe.
Spain was partly ruled by Islamic Moors from the 8th to the 15th centuries and had around 1.4 million Muslims in 2009 — about 3 per cent of the population — according to the Islamic Commission of Spain.
In a recent controversy, a young woman in Madrid changed schools after refusing to remove her Islamic headscarf when the institute where she was studying enforced its rule banning the wearing of headcoverings.
The ban on face veils is not new in Europe.
France approved a bill last month to outlaw the wearing of veils in public and Belgium’s lower house has also voted in favor of prohibiting the full veil, provoking strong reaction and stoking debate across the continent.