These European Countries want to Impose Saudi-Style Controls on Women's Dress

Published September 20th, 2017 - 02:13 GMT
Switzerland could soon become the latest European country to ban the burqa (AFP)
Switzerland could soon become the latest European country to ban the burqa (AFP)
  • Swiss activists have handed over 100,000 signatures calling for a ban on the Burqa to the country's parliament.
  • This means that a vote on the matter is likely to be held before 2020.
  • If passed, Switzerland will join a host of other European countries with laws controlling women's dress code.
  • This contrasts with most Middle Eastern countries where women can dress freely by law.

Switzerland could soon become the latest European country to ban the burqa, it has emerged.

The issue may now face a national vote after activists collected 100,000 signatures called for the prohibition of the garment, which covers the face.

The news comes after the Italian-speaking region of Ticin in the south of the country passed a ban on full-face veils last year.

Anyone caught wearing the burqa within the region now faces a fine of over $200.

The campaign is being fronted by 26-year-old far-right activist, Anian Liebrand, of the Swiss People’s Party.

“Facial coverings are a symbol of radical Islam that have nothing to do with religious freedom but are rather an expression of the oppression of women," he told Reuters.

Despite his alleged concerns about women’s rights, shaven-headed Liebrand now hopes to enforce his preferred dress code on the country’s Muslim women.

“In Switzerland, we show our faces when we talk to each other,” he added.

However, many others believe that the campaign is a waste of time and resources.

“How many people wear these burqas in Switzerland?” said Oender Gueneş, a spokesman for the Federation Of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland.

“You can probably count those living in Switzerland on maybe one or two hands. The rest are usually rich tourists from the Gulf,” he added.

Liebrand’s group delivered boxes contained 106,000 signatures to the country’s parliament last week and now hope to table a vote before 2020.

Muslims make up just five percent of the total Swiss population with many of those coming from former Yugoslavia.

Despite the tiny numbers, Liebrand’s group also spearheaded a ban on minarets, which was passed in the central European state in 2009.

“The minaret campaign started as underdogs and was something the big parties didn’t want. But I reckon the facial coverings ban will also resonate with the people,” he added.

If the law is passed, Switzerland will follow in the footsteps of some other European states, which have also banned the full-face veil.

France passed a total ban on the burqa in public spaces in 2011. At the time then-President Nicolas Sarkozy said they were “not welcome” in France.

Belgium also passed a law banned any clothing which obscures people’s faces in the same year and women now face a fine of over $1300 if they wear the conservative religious garment.

In 2015, the Netherlands introduced a ban stopping people from covering their faces in schools, hospitals or on public transport.

This year Germany’s parliament issued a ban on full-face veils for civil servants, judges, and soldiers, while Austria and the Netherlands have debated the issue.

It is also banned by regional authorities in certain towns in Italy and Spain following a 2014 EU ruling which stated that such bans did not infringe on human rights.

Despite Europe's issues with the dress choices of Muslim women, the majority of countries in the Middle East allow Muslim and non-Muslim women to dress as they choose by law.

Only Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran enforce widespread restrictions on female dress code.

A 2014 study by the University of Michigan which covered Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Egypt, found that only Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had a majority of respondents in favor of full-face coverings for women.

Meanwhile, the majority of respondents in Lebanon and a third of those surveyed in Turkey believed that uncovered hair was “appropriate for women in public”.

The same study found that half or more of respondants in Tunisia, Lebanon and Turkey believed that women should dress as they please in public.

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