Merkel ally calls for EU burqa ban
A senior German member of the European parliament and ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel called Sunday for all of Europe to follow Belgium's lead and ban the full Islamic veil or burqa in public.
"I wish that Germany -- and all of Europe -- would also outlaw the wearing of the burqa in all its forms," said Silvana Koch-Mehrin, European parliament vice-president and a member of Germany's Free Democrats (FDP), Merkel's junior coalition partners since elections in 2009.
"The burqa is a massive attack on women's rights, it is a mobile prison," she said in an op-ed piece in the mass-circulation German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
Belgian MPs in the lower house of parliament last week voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill banning clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified, including the full-face niqab and burqa.
All governing parties and the opposition agreed on the move -- most for security reasons linked to the fact that people cannot be recognised while wearing the clothing.
The ban, which will not enter force for weeks, has to pass the upper house and may have to be re-examined if early elections are called as Belgium battles a political crisis, is the first in the 27-nation European Union.
It was widely criticised by rights groups and Muslims, with Human Rights Watch saying the ban, punishable with a fine and/or a prison sentence, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
© 2010 AFP