European Muslims criticize veil ban plans
By VERONIKA OLEKSYN | AP
Published: May 16, 2010 22:05 Updated: May 16, 2010 22:05
VIENNA - Muslims attending a conference in Austria's capital Sunday criticized
European countries for considering the possibility of banning face-covering
veils, saying it is counterproductive and regressive.
Veil bans are being considered in Belgium and France, and lawmakers in other
European countries have also raised the issue.
The roughly 100 imams and Muslim religious advisers from 40 countries
participating in the meeting in Vienna agreed that Islam doesn't make it a
requirement for women to wear face veils and saw little need to discuss it
because of consensus on the matter, said Carla Amina Baghajati, a spokeswoman
for the Islamic Religious Authority in Austria, which hosted the meeting.
"Nevertheless, we are critical that it comes to a ban," Baghajati said. "Why?
Because it's counterproductive." She was among about 30 women taking part in
An extensive draft resolution presented at the end of the two-day conference
called for programs to promote the education of Muslim girls and women and said
every mosque should have a female contact person for women's issues.
It also expressed concern about a Swiss referendum late last year to ban the
construction of new minarets and stressed that the practicing of Islam
encompasses the respect of people from other religions or who hold different
"Muslims don't want to be seen as a problem but rather as part of the solution
for modern challenges," the document said.
The laws proposing bans on face-covering veils gives the impression there is a
need to restrict Muslims because there is "something dangerous" about them and
that they don't respect women's rights, Baghajati said.
A discussion within the Muslim community has helped keep the number of women
dressing this way in Europe to a minimum, she added.
Famile Fatma Arslan, a Dutch lawyer and fellow conference participant, warned
that the bans, if approved, could backfire.
"By creating a ban, you're not being preventive but you're being regressive,"
she said. "If you raise children and say 'this is something you shouldn't do,'
my kid, or my kids, or my nephews are doing it."
Instead, Arslan added, the focus should be more on the empowerment and
education of Muslim women
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