European rights court upholds Belgian veil ban

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Strasbourg (France), July 11 (IANS) The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday upheld Belgium’s ban on wearing Islamic full-face veil in public.

It was a ruling in a case brought by two women who wanted to wear the veil, which covers the entire face except the eyes, BBC reported.

The court in Strasbourg, France, found that the 2011 Belgian law banning clothing that partly or totally covers the face did not violate the right to respect for private and family life nor freedom of religion, and that it did not disproportionately discriminate the Muslim community.

The latest case brought against Belgium was filed by Belgian national Samia Belcacemi, who lives in Schaerbeek, and Moroccan national Yamina Oussar, who lives in Liège.

Belcacemi removed her veil fearing she might be fined or jailed while Oussar opted to stay at home, curtailing her social life, the court noted.

In its ruling, the court argued that the ban, however controversial, was “necessary in a democratic society” — because it seeks to guarantee the conditions of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

“The question whether the full-face veil was accepted in the Belgian public sphere was… a choice of society,” it said in a statement.

The judges also found the sanctions tied to the ban “proportionate”. The main one is a fine, while a prison sentence is reserved for repeat offenders, Euronews reported.

The ECHR already upheld a similar ban on full-face Islamic veils in France in 2014.

In March, Europe’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), ruled that workplace bans on the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign” such as headscarves need not constitute direct discrimination.

However, it said such bans must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to “dress neutrally”.

–IANS

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