Barcelona plans Islamic veil ban
Barcelona plans to be the first large city in Spain to ban the use of the full-face Islamic veil in public buildings, its mayor announced Monday.
Jordi Hereu said he will sign a decree which will apply in all public spaces such as the city hall and municipal covered markets and creches.
"It should not be possible that someone enters into a place without being identified," the Socialist mayor said.
He said the measure is not aimed at "any particular religious group" and would also apply to people wearing crash helmets and balaclavas.
Two other towns in the northeastern region of Catalonia, Lerida and El Venrell, have recently imposed bans on the use of the Islamic veil in public buildings.
Two more, Tarragona and Gerona, are considering similar measures, as is Coin in the southern region of Andalucia.
Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party has said it plans to present a proposal in Catalonia's regional parliament to ban the full-face veil in public places throughout the region.
Authorities in 11 mosques in Catalonia have vowed to challenge the bans in Spain's Constitutional Court.
Immigration from Muslim countries has grown dramatically in Spain since the 1990s, with Catalonia in particular being home to a large community of Pakistani origin.
There are now about one million Muslims among Spain's population of 47 million.
Last month, lawmakers in Belgium approved a draft law to ban the wearing of the Muslim full-face veil in public places, including streets -- creating a controversial first for Europe, although it is still subject to a senate vote.
Debate is raging in France as well, where the cabinet has approved a draft law to ban the Muslim full-face veil from public spaces, opening the way for the text to go before parliament in July.
© 2010 AFP