Belgium is set to become the first ever country in Europe to ban the burqa from being worn in public places. Skip related content
The vote in Parliament for a nationwide ban on Islamic clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified was almost unanimous.
The full-face niqab and burqa worn by some muslim women are not a mandatory requirement for the religion of Islam, but one of personal choice.
People found flouting the new law could be given a fine of 15-25 euros (£13-21) or even be faced with a week in jail.
Vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, warned that the new law could be the start of a slippery slope.
"Today it's the full-face veil, tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini-skirts."
"The wearing of a full-face veil is part of the individual freedoms" protected by Belgian, European and international rights laws, she said.
Amnesty International also condemned the move saying: "A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab."
In France President Nicholas Sarcozy has recently introduced a similar bill to ban the burqa - despite being advised that such a move could be unconstitutional.
The French move, which seems likely to go ahead, will be decided on May 19.
The Belgium bill now goes to the senate for a 15-day period of review where any final objections can be heard, before being passed iinto law.
AFP, Yahoo News...