A Spanish town council has voted to ban the wearing of the face-covering Islamic veil in public, the first authority in the predominantly Catholic country to do so.
The Catalan council of Lleida approved a law prohibiting the use of full veils such as the Afghan burqa or the niqab, which leave only the eyes visible, according to a release on its website.
The French cabinet approved a bill this month to outlaw the wearing of niqabs and burqas in public, and Belgium’s lower house voted in favour of prohibiting the full veil last month, provoking strong reactions and stoking debate across Europe
Lleida council said its aim was to guarantee the fundamental right of equality between the sexes.
“This is an issue of rights and freedoms, it’s an issue to do with male-female equality rights. Religious questions were not discussed today, nor even cultural ones,” said local mayor Angel Ros.
The council said it was also urging the central and regional governments to legislate on the issue.
Spain, parts of which were ruled by Islamic Moors from the 8th to the 15th centuries, had around 1.4 million Muslims in 2009 — about 3 percent of the population, according to the Islamic Commission of Spain.
In a recent controversy, a young woman changed schools after refusing to remove her Islamic headscarf when the institute where she was studying enforced its rule banning the wearing of headcoverings.