Belgium Says No to Burqa, France Finds Ban 'Unconstitutional'

A parliamentary committee in Belgium voted unanimously on Wednesday to ban the wearing of fully-veiling garments in public, while earlier in the week a French administrative body found the policy to be "unconstitutional."

"We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen," Belgian official Daniel Bacquelaine, who proposed the bill, told the Associated Press. "It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and encloses an individual."

According to Bacquelaine, while the burqa, which covers the body and head, and the niqab, which covers the face, are rarely seen in Belgian public life, the group feels compelled to "act as of today to avoid development."

"Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society," Bacquelaine said.

The vote brings Belgium one step closer to being the first European country to approve the ban on the garments, which are considered in Muslim culture to be a sign of "modesty."

Meanwhile, the French government on Tuesday declared President Nicolas Sarkozy's bid for a restriction on the clothing "unconstitutional" and "tricky to put into practice."

"There appears ... to be no legally unchallengeable justification for carrying out such a ban," the Council of State said in a statement.

Last June, President Sarkozy said that the veiling garments were "not welcome" in the country under reasons of giving women equal rights and preserving the country's secularist nature.

In February, a Moroccan man was denied citizenship in France for requiring his wife to wear a burqa, which the Council of State said displayed a, "discriminatory attitude towards women, going as far as refusing to shake their hands and advocating the separation of boys and girls including, at home, of brothers and sisters."

"The lifestyle he has chosen may be justified by religious precepts but is incompatible with the values of the Republic, notably the principle of equality of the sexes," the ruling read

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