Belgium’s Islamic full-face veil ban upheld by European Court of Human Rights

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld Belgium’s ban on the Islamic full-face veil on Tuesday (July 11), rejecting a legal challenge by two Muslim women wearing the niqab.

epa000444505 American University of Cairo veiled students attend court in Cairo on Saturday, 28 May 2005, where they are waiting for the court’s decision on a lawsuit that was filed after they were prevented from entering the university’s library wearing their veils. The court ruling was postponed to 25 June. EPA/KHALED EL-FIQI

The court in Strasbourg, France found that the 2011 Belgian law banning clothing that partly or totally covers the face did not violate the right to respect for private and family life nor freedom of religion, and that it did not disproportionately discriminate the Muslim community.

In its ruling, the court argued that the ban, however controversial, was “necessary in a democratic society” – because it seeks to guarantee the conditions of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

“The question whether the full-face veil was accepted in the Belgian public sphere was… a choice of society,” it said in a statement.

The judges also found the sanctions tied to the ban “proportionate”. The main one is a fine, while a prison sentence is reserved for repeat offenders.

The ECHR already upheld a similar ban on full-face Islamic veils in France in 2014.

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