Belgium’s parliament is drafting legislation to criminalise the niqab after the country’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee unanimously endorsed a ban on the partial or total covering of the face in public places. Anyone defying the new law may face imprisonment of up to 7 days though a fine of between $20 to $30 is more likely. Once drafted the new law will be voted on 22 April 2010.
When enacted Belgium would be the first country in Europe to apply a comprehensive ban on the face veil. France and other countries such as the Netherlands, and Canada have also been courting a ban on the Niqab. Belgium’s move would give a green light for further bans and fines to be put into law in order to specifically stop Muslim women who adorn the niqab as a religious rite.
Belgium’s Muslims number about 500,000 in a total population of just over 10 million. The move would be a strong symbolic warning to Muslims against ostentatious displays of their faith as only a very tiny number women are reported to wear the face veil.
Europe’s political class are deliberately fanning the flames of xenophobic Islamophobia resulting in prejudice and discrimination whilst cowardly hiding behind the hollow notion of protecting liberal values. Europe would do well to worry that such laws are giving oxygen to supremacist fascist voices such as Geert Wilders who publicly describes Islam as barbaric and advocate the banning of the Quran. Indeed, Geert Wilders’s hateful views have been positively normalised due to the attitudes displayed by European governments on an array of anti-Muslim issues.
The cowardly attack on the Muslim woman’s dress which is now focussed on the niqab yet certainly will move onto the hijab, as has already happened in France, clearly demonstrate that western cries to liberate Muslim women are in fact lies which mask a wave of liberal intolerance that does not have the capacity to accept cultural and religious diversity. When it comes to Islam liberal notions of inclusion and pluralism are in fact pipedreams and reveals Europe’s ugly history of racism, minority baiting and xenophobia remains alive and well in the democratic corridors of power.
Belgium’s vote on a ban on an individual’s choice of religious dress paradoxically exposes the failure of the freedom and democracy agenda to look after the rights let alone interests of minority populations without attempting to erase diverse identities. These calculated attempts to coerce Muslims to abandon Islam have not only been futile rather they have further strengthened Muslim resolve to seek to understand their religion as a way of life and to continue to return to the sublime values of Islam in droves.
How can ye reject the faith in Allah.- seeing that ye were without life, and He gave you life; then will He cause you to die, and will again bring you to life; and again to Him will ye return. [2:28]