28 January 2004
BRUSSELS – In a move likely to have serious repercussions on the debate over Islamic veils in Belgium the French cabinet on Wednesday approved plans for a ban on ostentatious religious symbols in schools.
The planned law will now be presented to the French parliament and the government hopes it will be on the statute books in time for the beginning of the next school year this September.
The debate surrounding the hajib in Belgium has been every bit as heated as it has in neighbouring France and many analysts argue that Wednesday’s news will be used as ammunition by supporters of a ban on Islamic veils here.
Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has already gone on the record as saying he favours a French-style headscarf ban. Foreign Minister Louis Michel has also said he does not want to see Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols in the country’s state schools, although he would like to se the issue resolved through voluntary agreements between the Muslim community and school authorities.
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on the other hand has so far remained tight lipped over his views on the issue however.
Opponents to a veil ban in Belgium, like their counterparts in France, argue that any legislation outlawing the wearing of religious symbols in schools would be extremely difficult to enforce and would increase cross-cultural tensions.
Belgium’s state backed equal opportunities commission recently called for more tolerance in the debate over hajibs. While some women wear veils because they are forced to many others choose to dress in hajibs. In such cases a wearing a Muslim headscarf can often help women remain integrated in their own communities while building lives and careers in wider society, the council argued.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news