April 22, 2010 

The proposed ban would apply to both residents and tourists in France and 
Belgium. (AFP Photo)

MUI Declares European Burqa Bans a Rights Issue

France and Belgium would be guilty of abusing women's rights if they followed 
through on plans to ban the wearing of burqas in public, Indonesia's top 
Islamic body said on Thursday. 

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) said religious beliefs should be 
respected, even if they presented security concerns by covering the face. 

"We're clearly against the proposed ban. If it becomes law, it will mean 
Belgium and France are restricting the rights of Muslim women to fulfil their 
religious obligations," MUI chairman Amidhan said. "If it's for security 
reasons, the fears are excessive. It's unfair to consider all veiled women a 

Although the vast majority of Indonesian women do not wear the full 
body-covering burqa or face-covering niqab, Muslims in other parts of the world 
have different interpretations of Islamic scripture and their beliefs should be 
respected, he said. 

"Interpretation of the Koran is different in different countries," he said. 
"Indonesian Muslim women don't have to cover their faces with veils, unlike 
Muslim women in some countries in the Middle East. But we have to respect their 

Belgium was set to pass a ban on burqas on Thursday, which would be the first 
such clampdown in Europe, just a day after France promised a similar law. 

The French government said a bill would be presented to ministers in May 
banning the niqab and the burqa from streets, shops and markets, and not just 
from public buildings as is the case now. 

A French minister said Muslim tourists in France would also be forbidden to 
wear the full-face veil, along with French residents, under the government's 
plan to ban the garment. 

"When you arrive in France, you respect the laws in force," Nadine Morano, a 
junior minister for families, said on the radio station France Info. "Everyone 
will have to respect the laws in France. That's how it is." 

Hundreds of thousands of tourists from the Middle East visit France each year, 
according to estimates from its Tourism Ministry, and veiled women are a common 
sight in the luxury stores along Paris's shopping boulevards. 

Morano said women breaching the ban would be fined but would not be unveiled 
"on the spot." 

She said that the planned ban was in line with France's secular principles, but 
also aimed to give "a message at international level" and would apply equally 
to all visitors from abroad. 


Agence France-Presse 

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