European Parliament [official website] Vice President Silvana Koch-Mehrin [official website, in German] expressed her support for a continent-wide ban on the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] in an editorial [text, in German] published Saturday in the German daily Bild [media website, in German]. Koch-Mehrin, a member of the Free Democratic Party [party website, in German] representing Germany, described the burqa as a "mobile prison" which "robs [women] of their face and personality." Koch-Mehrin also stated her support for religious and personal freedoms, but not at the expense of "tak[ing] the human face. At least not in Europe." Shortly after Koch-Mehrin's editorial was published, Reinhard Butikofer [official website], a member of the Green Party [party website] in the European Parliament, described her support [Kolner Stadtanzeiger report, in German] for the ban as a tactic to get support from right-wing populists, and that his party would oppose a burqa ban if the issue came before parliament.
The Belgian House of Representatives [official website, in French] on Thursday voted 136-0 to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full face veils in public. The proposed legislation [materials, in French] applies to areas "accessible to the public" or areas meant for "public use or to provide public services." Violators could face a penalty of up to seven days in jail or a fine of 15 to 25 euros. The measure must now go before the Senate [official website, in French]. France, which has Europe's largest Muslim population, has also been pressing for a ban on the burqa. Last month, the French Council of State advised the French government against a complete ban [JURIST report] on full Islamic veils because it risks violating the French Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights [texts]. Also last month, lawmakers in Quebec introduced a bill [Star report] that would ban women from wearing full face veils from public services, which garnered support from members of the Muslim Canadian Congress [official website] who argue that the law would not violate human rights [JURIST comment] and would promote the ideals of a free and democratic society.