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By FutureLaw Desk

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld the ban on burqas and other full-face Islamic veils in Belgium. As per the ECHR Judges, the nationwide prohibition (which came into effect in 2011) did not violate the rights to private and family life and freedom of religion, or discrimination laws; furthermore, Belgium had the right to impose restrictions aiming to ensure the principles of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

ECHR also dismissed two separate cases – one appealing Belgium’s nationwide ban and another on a 2008 by-law adopted by three municipalities. The first case was brought by two women – Samia Belcacemi and Yamina Oussar – who previously attempted to have the law suspended and annulled at the Constitutional Court in Brussels.

In its verdict, ECHR stated that the government of Belgium had been responding “to a practice that it considered to be incompatible, in Belgian society, with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society…essential to ensure the functioning of a democratic society”.

It was the latest test of laws brought in across Europe to ban the Islamic veil in public or while carrying out state functions.

In March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that companies can legally ban Muslim employees from wearing headscarves, but only as part of prohibitions including all other religious and political symbols. However, the Court also noted that such bans could constitute discrimination if people adhering to a specific religion, such as Muslims, are put at a particular disadvantage.

A number of similar cases are still pending in different courts across Europe, including an employment tribunal in the UK where a Muslim estate agent is suing her former employer after allegedly being told to remove her black headscarf because the garment had “terrorist affiliations”.

In Europe, France was the first to implement a nationwide burqa ban in April 2011. Belgium and Bulgaria followed, with partial or regional prohibitions now in place in Italy, Spain, Denmark and Switzerland. Recently the legislators in Germany, Austria and Netherlands have voted in support of a partial ban on full-face Islamic veils in their respective parliaments, but no laws have yet come into force.

A brilliant article on the underlying sociopolitical reasons of Europe’s adverse stance against Islamic dress of  women is worth reading – From colonial Algeria to modern day Europe, the Muslim veil remains an ideological battleground

Source – The Independent