Spanish town becomes latest to ban Islamic veil

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A small town in southern Spain on Monday became the latest municipality in the country to ban the use of the face-covering Islamic veil in public buildings.

The municipal council in Coin, a town of some 21,000 inhabitants in the Andalucia region near the city of Malaga, approved the measure by a large majority.

The ban will be imposed in all public buildings, including schools and sports centres, but not in the rest of the town.

In recent weeks several municipalities in the northeastern region of Catalonia, including the city of Barcelona, have announced bans on the use of face-covering Islamic veils in public or are considering doing so.

Spain's upper house of parliament last week also approved a motion calling on Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's socialist government to ban the use of the Islamic veil in public.

Earlier this month Justice Minister Francisco Caamano said the government planned to restrict the use of the veils in public places under a proposed new law on religious freedom.

Immigration from Muslim countries has soared in Spain since the 1990s, and there are now about one million Muslims among the 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

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