The town council of Lérida in northern Spain has become the first in that country to ban the veil. In a motion passed Friday, the council voted to prohibit the "use of the veil and other clothes and accessories which cover the face and prevent identification in buildings and installations of the town hall". 

About 20 per cent of the population of the Catalan town are foreign-born; of those, about a third are Maghrabis from North Africa, mainly Morocco.

The veil has led to debate in many European countries: Belgian deputies last month backed a draft law banning the garment in all public places, including on the streets, while France's cabinet has approved a draft law to ban the full-face veil from public spaces. The bill goes before the French parliament in July.

There are reasonable "civic" grounds for asking Muslims not to wear the full-face veil when teaching or engaged in jobs where it is seeing the face is important.

But the grounds cited by the the mayor of Lérida are ideological.

"It's a question of rights and liberties, a question of the right to equality of men and women", said Àngel Ros. "Today we did not debate religious or even cultural matters".

(Spanish-speakers can watch an interview with him here.)

This decision, like the French one, assumes that that the burka somehow denigrates women. There is no evidence for that. Like those anticlerical governments which closed convents on the grounds that nuns needed liberating, the Spanish town council of Lerida has demonstrated ignorance and secularist bias.

 

Comments

Mark Harden | 5/31/2010 - 11:48am
Comparing Muslim women being REQUIRED to wear a burkha with consecrated nuns CHOOSING to wear a veil is a rather obvious red herring.
Beth Cioffoletti | 5/30/2010 - 10:53am
I wanted to add to paragraph #3 above:
Nor should a specific Church be able to dictate the custome of a culture which consists of many different religious Faiths.
Beth Cioffoletti | 5/30/2010 - 10:50am
I am told, by American friends who have visited Muslim countries, that there were situations where they were required to wear full burquas while in public, as well as to walk behind their husbands.  They were always required to cover their arms, legs, and heads.
 
Though they were not Muslim, they did this willingly out of respect for the culture, and because they did not want to cause any ill will or trouble.
 
I am a firm believer in separation of Church and State.  A state should not be able to dictate how anyone worships or expresses their religious convictions within their own places of worship.
 
However this seems to be a cultural matter, rather than a religious one, and one should respect and adhere to the customs of the prevailing culture.   In Western countries, women do not cover their faces in public.  
Anonymous | 5/29/2010 - 11:33pm
And what will we say when our government says that we can no longer attend church on Sundays, as such an obligation imposed upon individuals is a violation of our civil liberties and our right to be free to go where we want when we want? Because that is exactly the path that such a decision sets us down. Which master shall we follow?
Christopher Hale | 5/29/2010 - 9:00pm
This is a very weak article. Anyone who has studied Islam at some length knows that there is atleast question to whether or not the burka denigrates women. It isn't so easy to dismiss as a "secularist" agenda. Perhaps these town councils are well-educated on Islam and the role of the burka. A question for the author: what would the right reason to ban a burka be in your mind?
JIM MCCREA | 5/29/2010 - 4:11pm
Ask any woman who has no choice but to wear a burqa if, given a choice, she would still wear it, assuming there was no fear of male retribution.  Then we'll know if the wearing of it is denigrating or not.
Carl Kenner | 5/29/2010 - 12:09pm
Of course the burqa denigrates women. That's its whole purpose. You should learn about Afghanistan before you force everyone to accept that Afghanistan's laws should override Spanish law.
Seeing the face is always important. Otherwise how can you have a social life at all? How can you recognise or interact with friends or strangers that you meet when you are out? How can you even eat or drink or talk? How can you get vitamin D?
Allowing the burqa would be racist, since it gives Arab women less rights than white women.
 
Etienne Bernard | 5/29/2010 - 10:40am
And why the burka does not denigrate women? By covering face, it  singles out women as dangerous since their sex-appeal would be so irresistible (whatever their other qualities) that they can treathen men and the fame of their family. Therefore, the burka isolates the women. I do not understand how can you compare the burqa with a nun's veil that does not cover her face.