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Catalonia rejects motion for region-wide burqa ban

Reuters

The parliament of the Catalonia region of Spain on Thursday rejected a motion for a total ban on the full Islamic veil. Two conservative deputies had tabled the bill, urging the regional government to outlaw the burka not only in government buildings, but also on the street. 

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Thursday’s motion was initially adopted, but the vote was then challenged because of technical error.

After a recess, the Chairman of Regional Parliament ordered a second vote, which was boycotted in protest by supporters of the motion. The vote was then rejected by the remaining MPs.

The burka has already been banned in government buildings in nine Catalan cities, with the motion pushing for an extension of this across the entire region of north-east Spain.

Barcelona announced its ban on full Islamic veils in recent weeks, while other municipalities are considering doing the same.

On Monday, Coin, a small town in the southern region of Andalucia became the first plaace outside of Catalonia to ban the veil in public buildings.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, MP Rafael Lopez, of the Catalan Popular Party, said the motion was “not of the right or the left, but a question of values”.

"After struggling for decades for the dignity of women, why can’t we say loud and clear that in our country we are against these walking prisons that degrade women and render them invisible?" he said.

The motion itself said Catalan authorities could not “remain on the sidelines of the European debate", citing moves in both France and Belgium to ban the burka.

Last month, lawmakers in Belgium approved a draft law to ban it in public places, including streets, creating a controversial first for Europe. This is, however, still subject to a senate vote.

Debate is also raging in France, where the cabinet has approved a draft law to ban the burka in public spaces, opening the way for the text to go before parliament in July.

On the heels of this, the debate has intensified in Spain, which has a community of 1.2 million Muslims.

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 wearing of the veil in public.

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

 

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