UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated in an interview Sunday that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning the wearing of the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other face coverings in public. Green stated that banning the burqa would not be consistent with British society [Telegraph report], where mutual respect for differences among cultures is important. Earlier this month, legislation was introduced [JURIST report] in the House of Commons [official website] that would ban the wearing of the burqa or other face coverings in public. The Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill [materials] was introduced by MP Philip Hollobone [official website] in order to regulate the covering of the face in public and, if passed, would prohibit the wearing of both the burqa and the niqab. Green stated that the bill was unlikely to pass and that the government had little interest in telling citizens what they are allowed to wear in public. Also on Sunday, the Spanish opposition Popular Party (PP) [party website, in Spanish] announced that debate will begin [AP report] over a Spanish burqa ban in the lower house of the parliament, the Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], on Tuesday. The plans for a Spanish burqa ban were first announced last month [JURIST report] by Spanish Justice Minister Francisco Caamano [official profile, in Spanish] and will be included in Spain's Religious Freedom Bill, which would also prohibit religious symbols, such as crucifixes, in state-owned buildings. The Spanish burqa ban appears to have strong support from both the ruling and opposition parties. In June, the Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] calling on the Spanish government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. The proposed Spanish burqa ban is expected to become law unless ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish].
Last week, the French government moved closer to implementing a law that would make it illegal to wear the burqa or other full face veils in public. The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday approved by a vote of 336 to one [JURIST report], legislation [materials, in French] that would give police the authority to require women wearing the veils to show their face, and, if they refuse, they could be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. The National Assembly began debate on the bill earlier this month, after the French cabinet approved the legislation [JURIST reports] in May. The bill will now proceed to a vote in the Senate [official website, in French], which is currently scheduled for September. Similar legislation is also being considered in Belgium, where, in April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted 136-0 to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full face veils in public.