Belgium moves to ban burqas worn in public

“There is all-party public support for this,” says Leen Dierick, a conservative member of the Belgian parliament’s Interior Affairs committee that unanimously backed the proposed ban March 31. The initiative is expected become law in July and would apply to all public places, including streets.

Until now, it has been up to city governments in Belgium to crack down on burqa-style outfits. “Enforcement by local governments has been patchy,” says Mr. Dierick. “The point is public security, the need to show one’s face in public. Not religious freedom.” The proposed Belgian ban partly underscores how populist politicians across Europe are making a big imprint on attitudes and policies toward immigrants and minorities, especially Muslims.

Belgian lawmaker Filip Dewinter says mainstream politicians back a ban on burqa-type attire for fear of losing more ground to his far-right Flemish Interest party — a fringe factor 15 years but who today hold 17 of the 150 parliamentary seats.