Belgian School Term Begins With Protests Over Veil Ban

Dozens of protesters were at schools in Antwerp where authorities have banned girls from wearing the Muslim veil. Approximately 60 people turned up for the start of the school year outside the gates of the Athenee Royal of Antwerp school, where most students are Muslims, carrying banners calling for freedom of choice.

Another 70 protesters assembled at the Hoboken secondary school, also in Antwerp. “This ban is against the freedom of religion and violates the right to an education for young Muslims”, said Samira Azabar, one of the protest organizers.

After the two schools decided on the ban in June an imam in Antwerp called on all Muslim parents not to send their children back to school for the new academic year. Athenee head mistress Karin Heremans said that so far a dozen students decided not to return to school.

The Belgian state is “neutral” rather than secular, leaving the decision on banning or allowing veils to school authorities.