The ban of wearing burqa and niqab continues at local level in the Spanish Town Councils. On the one side the Town Council of Tàrrega has decided not to ban the
wearing of burqa and niqab in the public spaces and on the other side the city hall of Lleida has decided to ban it. In the meantime some Muslims organizations and
associations like Watani in LLeida are preparing legal actions to stop this type of initiatives.
After the Najwa Malha affair and the ban on the burqa and the niqab in Lleida some political and religious actors have fixed their opinions on headscarves.
The Speaker in the European Parliament of the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE), López Aguilar, compared the hijab to the Catholic nuns’ head covering.
The mosque in the town of Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris, is currently the most controversial in France because its imam has come out in support of the government’s decision to ban the burqa. Imam Hassan Chalghoumi is now facing death threats and has been given police protection. Ignoring the advice of his advisors he spoke to the Today program. He says the burqa has nothing to do with religion but the wearing of it was down to tradition.
And the imam added that the burqa debate was diverting attention from the real problems facing the Muslim community, including racism, integration and young people dropping out of school early. Tempers are running high at the mosque and there are some it is hard to tell how many want the imam to leave. And there is also a lot of anger and frustration with the media and the police.
The French burqa debate has crossed the Channel. Despite calls from some groups for a full or partial ban on veils, there is currently no ban on Islamic dress in the UK – although schools were allowed to set out their own dress code in 2007 after several high-profile court cases. In January 2010, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street.
But writing in the Independent, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who chairs the group British Muslims for Secular Democracy, said she supported restrictions on wearing the face veil in key public spaces. “This covering makes women invisible, invalidates their participatory rights and confirms them as evil temptresses.”
Switzerland’s recent vote to ban the construction of new minarets has shocked and angered Muslims around the world. But the controversial move also reflects a growing sense of unease among other Europeans who have trouble coming to terms with Islam’s increased visibility.
This article examines the state of Islam in the public sphere of many Western European countries, regarding symbols, values, the relationship with non-Muslims and politics of recognition. It discusses Switzerland’s disturbing vote on minarets and the huge divide within its society, Germany’s fear – and lack of knowledge – of Islam, the British paradox of both integration and exclusion, the French burqa-debate and culture clashes in Belgium.