Burqa bans infringe women's rights, say Indonesian clerics

22nd April 2010, Comments 0 comments

France and Belgium will be guilty of abusing women's rights if they follow through on plans to ban the wearing of burqas in public, Indonesia's top Islamic body said Thursday.

The Ulema Council in the country with the world's biggest Muslim population, amounting to around 200 million people, said religious beliefs should be respected even if there were security concerns about the face-covering garment.

"We're clearly against the proposed ban. If it becomes law, it will mean Belgium and France are restricting the rights of Muslim women to fulfil their religious obligations," council chairman Amidhan told AFP.

"If it's for security reasons, the fears are excessive. It's unfair to consider all veiled women a threat."

Although Indonesian female Muslims do not generally wear naqibs or burqas, Muslims in other parts of the world had different interpretations of Islamic scripture and their beliefs should be respected, he said.

"Interpretation of the Koran is different in different countries. Indonesian Muslim women don't have to cover their faces with veils, unlike Muslim women in some countries in the Middle East. But we have to respect their beliefs," said Amidhan, who like many Indonesians has only one name.

Belgium is set Thursday to ban burqas in public, the first such clampdown in Europe, just a day after France promised a similar law.

The French government said a bill would be presented to ministers in May banning the niqab and the burqa from streets, shops and markets, and not just from public buildings as is the case now.

But a political crisis threatening the Belgian government and objections from France's constitutional watchdog mean the restrictions might not make it into law.

© 2010 AFP

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