Spain to debate burka ban

Spain’s parliament will debate a proposal this week to bar the burka in public, joining other European countries considering similar moves on the grounds that such garments are degrading to women.

The opposition Popular Party tabled a motion to debate total body-covering Islamic veils in the lower house on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Spanish government favours barring the wearing of burkas in government buildings, Justice Minister Francisco Caamano has said.

The minister said garments like the burka are “hardly compatible with human dignity” or with identifying a person in public spaces such as town halls or public schools.

Caamano said an forthcoming bill on religious issues would seek to restrict the wearing of full-body Islamic veils, which he said demean women.

Several European countries have debated regulating the use of body-covering burkas or face-covering niqabs, including Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burka-style Islamic veils on July 13 in an effort to define and protect French values, a move that disconcerted many in the country’s large Muslim community.

Spain has a million Muslims in a total population of 47 million, with important population clusters in north-eastern Catalonia and southern Andalucia, but burkas are rarely seen.

Barcelona, the country’s second-largest city, decided last month it would ban the use of burkas and niqabs in municipal buildings, joining a handful of Catalan towns that have taken similar steps.

Mansur Escudero, spokesman for Spain’s Islamic Commission, said there was no religious mandate to wear burkas and the garment was “extravagant”.

However, Escudero said wearing the burka did not attack moral standards and should not be offensive, but most of all it was a personal choice. “To legislate against its use undermined civil liberties,” he said.

“If a woman wants to wear one, then why shouldn’t she?” he said.

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