Belgium's interim cabinet announced via the Belgian Official Journal [official website, in French and Dutch] Thursday that the nation will be officially banning the burqa [EurActiv report]. The Belgian House of Representatives [official website, in French] voted 136-0 to approve the law in April 2010 [JURIST report] and the Senate [official website, in French] approved it in May [DPA report] of that year, but the law's implementation was delayed by Belgium's political crisis. Violators of the new law will be fined € 137.50 and could receive a week in jail. The law is set to go into effect on July 23.
A French Muslim couple living in the UK filed a challenge [JURIST report] last month in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the French ban [materials, in French] on full face coverings. Also in June, a Spanish court upheld a city ban on veils in municipal buildings for identification and security purposes. Under the French ban, people caught wearing facial coverings in public can be fined € 150 (USD $215) and/or ordered to take a citizenship class. In addition, anyone convicted of forcing a someone else to cover their face may be fined up to 30,000 euro and jailed for one year [AFP report, in French], and the penalties double if the incident involves a minor. The ban affects citizens, residents and tourists alike, and extends to all public places [Le Figaro backgrounder, in French], including airports, hospitals, government offices and even places of worship that are open to the public. In October, the French Constitutional Council ruled that the ban conforms with the Constitution [JURIST report]. Also in October, Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] said that the Netherlands will ban the burqa [JURIST report] as part of the government's plan to form a minority coalition. In August, Austria's conservative Freedom Party [official website, in German] called for a special vote [JURIST report] on whether to ban face veils and the construction of minarets, two of the most visible symbols of the Islamic faith. In July, Spain's lower house of parliament rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to ban the burqa and other full face veils by a vote of 183 to 162 with two abstaining.