Strasbourg, 23.06.2010 –There should be no general prohibition on wearing the burqa and the niqab or other religious clothing, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has said – though it added that legal restrictions may be justified “for security purposes, or where the public or professional functions of individuals require their religious neutrality, or that their face can be seen”.
In a resolution unanimously adopted today, the Assembly – which brings together parliamentarians from the 47 Council of Europe member states – said the veiling of women is often perceived as “a symbol of the subjugation of women to men” but a general ban would deny women “who genuinely and freely desire to do so” their right to cover their face.
However, the parliamentarians added: “No woman should be compelled to wear religious apparel by her community or family. Any act of oppression, sequestration or violence constitutes a crime that must be punished by law.” European governments should also seek to educate Muslim women on their rights, as well as their families and communities, and encourage them to take part in public and professional life.
The Assembly, approving a report on Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia prepared by Mogens Jensen (Denmark, SOC), also called on Switzerland to repeal as soon as possible its general ban on the construction of minarets, which it described as discriminatory.