An international court has ruled on a country’s sweeping ban on burqas and full-faced veils. With a wave of Islamic terror sweeping across Europe, some governments are instituting common sense reforms to protect its citizens, triggering legal challenges from Muslim activists.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favor of a country’s right to institute a burqa ban. The ruling is a major shift from the status quo in Europe, which allows unlimited cultural expression. That unbridled tolerance may sit well with social justice warriors, but it can often have unintended consequences when some take advantage of it.
There have been a number of instances where men and women have used burqas to conceal their identity or even weapons, including bombs. In June, a man in Abu Dhabi dressed in a burqa to lure a young boy away from a mosque, where he raped and strangled him. In 2014, a Chicago ATM worker disguised himself in a burqa and robbed one of his own ATMs, but was arrested at the scene carrying a suitcase full of cash.
Belgium was determined not to go the way of most of the rest of Europe. They banned all public wearing of burqas and full-face veils. Several Muslim women sued for the right to keep wearing them, and the case went to Europe’s highest court for such matters.
Judges said the nationwide prohibition, which came into effect in 2011, did not violate the rights to private and family life and freedom of religion, or discrimination laws.
The court found Belgium had the right to impose restrictions aiming to ensure the principles of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
Its ruling said the government had been responding “to a practice that it considered to be incompatible, in Belgian society, with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society…essential to ensure the functioning of a democratic society”.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed two separate cases – one appealing Belgium’s nationwide ban and another on a 2008 by-law adopted by three municipalities.
The first case was brought by two women – Samia Belcacemi and Yamina Oussar – who previously attempted to have the law suspended and annulled at the Constitutional Court in Brussels.
They both gave evidence on how the ban has affected their lives as Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab, which covers the face except for the eyes.
Ms Belcacemi said she initially continued to wear the veil in public but removed it over fear of being jailed or fined, while Ms Oussar said the law has forced her to stay at home.
Although Belgium was the first European country to propose a burqa ban, France was the first country to institute it. Austria and the Netherlands have a partial burqa ban in place (for teachers and other public positions), and Germany is considering a partial ban. Even Angela Merkel has verbally backed the idea of a partial ban, calling burqas and full-face veils “inappropriate.”
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H/T: Pamela Geller