Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spain: Burqa Ban Proposals Spark Muslims Calls Of A Crusade

(ANSAmed) - MADRID - The Islamic community in Catalonia has criticised the 'crusade' undertaken by several political parties against the Islamic veil, as an electoral manoeuvre to ''gain votes and feed xenophobia'', before the regional elections set to take place in the region in the fall. Another six municipalities have decided to follow Lleida's example, the first Spanish city to impose a ban on the burqa and the niqab in public areas, and they have placed the discussion on the agenda in their respective municipal council meetings. These include Cervera YTarraga (Lleida), Tarragona, Reus, Cunit and El Vendrell (Tarragona). The People's Party (PP), Convergencia i Union (CiU) and the Socialist's Party of Catalonia (PSC), together with the xenophobia political movement Plataforma per Catalunya, are promoting debates on the veil, according to reports in the media. In El Vendrell, where the immigrant population is 17%, compared to an average of 15% in Catalonia, high unemployment and the economic crisis have recently intensified social conflict. The motion to approve the ban on wearing the Muslim veil in municipal offices, institutions and schools promoted by CiU, could be approved with votes from Plataforma per Catalunya, led by extreme right-wing leader Josep Andlada. In Tarragona and Reus, the latter, considered to be an area with a high concentration of the most conservative brand of Islam, the initiative promoted by the PP and CiU calls for the veil to be banned even in the streets. A ban that could be imposed by law only by the central government. The socialist mayor of Cunit, Judith Alberich, called for regulation at the federal level.

In Cervera y Tarrega, the offensive against the burqa and the niqab is being led by advisors of groups allied with Anglada's party. For many representative of the Islamic community, which in Catalonia counts 250,000 people, the debate on the use of religious symbols is turning into ''political demagogy'', since in Catalonia there are very few women who wear the full veil. For Abdennur Prado, the leader of the Islamic council, this is an ''artificial'' debate that serves only to ''feed xenophobia and obtain votes''. One individual in favour of the ban, upon its approval in Lleida, was the president of the Arab cultural association Atlas, Omar Charah, who is against the burqa not only for safety reasons, but also due to the radical interpretation of Islam that its use represents. ''In Catalonia, mainly in Lleida and Tarragona,'' he observed, ''a radical current Salafi Islam is spreading that makes integration and cohabitation with the Muslim community difficult''.''It is a cancer that should be eradicated,'' he added. Justice Minister Francisco Caamano, in statements to the media assured that the veil does not pose any problem ''in a tolerant society like in Spain''. The minister pointed out that the government ''is working on a comprehensive vision'' of the issue and is examining a modification to the law on religious freedom. A modification, which starts with the need ''to defend the dignity of women, while the burqa and similar garments,'' observed Caamano, ''which do not allow for an individual to be identified, strike at the dignity of a human being''.


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