Should Spain Ban the Burka?


CALLS to ban the Burka are growing, not just across Spain but in the UK and Belgium; and in France where they recently voted in their lower house to ban the wearing of the burka (and niqab) in a public place. It wasn’t a narrow vote either: 335 to 1, with some of The Greens and Socialists sitting on the fence, sorry I mean abstaining.

There are still hurdles to be crossed, but France is heading to a point when a woman wearing a full-face veil in public could be stopped by the police and fined 150€. If the police gather evidence that a woman is being forced to dress in a niqab, then the man faces a very heavy fine, and the polls suggest that 70% of French voters support such a ban. In Briton 67% want to see the burka banned, with a staggering 80% of people over the age off 55 saying they would support a ban.


It seems very unlikely that Britain will prohibit wearing the full islamic veil, with Immigration Minister Damian Green  saying a ban would be “un-British”.

Hmmm ….. I am sure many reading this will now be asking just how ‘British’ is a burka? They have a point: see a man on the beach with a hankie knotted round his head – very British indeed. Spot a tourist with their socks on with their sandals, fair bet they are British as well. See someone walking towards you in a burka and I somewhat doubt that many would go “ah,those British have a interesting way of dressing don’t they”

In Spain it started off with bans being suggested for the wearing of the burka in Municipal buildings across Barcelona and Tarragona, where it is not uncommon to see the burka being worn on the streets, but I had to smile when I read that in Tarrés the parish was debating a ban even though there are no Muslims in Tarrés and as far as anyone can remember a burka has never been seen on the streets.

And that, I think, may be the issue with all this talk of banning. Spain has a million Muslims in a total population of 47 million, with the major population clusters in northeastern Catalonia and southern Andalucia, but even so burqas are rarely seen. To ban something is to intimate that something is wrong, that it is breaking the law, that it must be stopped entirely. It implies that the activity is causing a problem and we would be better off without it, and I am not at all convinced that is the case with the burka.

Where do I stand on this? I am not in favour of a ban at all. I do think though that people should respect the country that they chose to live in and be sensitive to the traditions and cultures that they have chosen to live amongst. In this day and age we all need to be sensitive to the world around us, and the impact of what we do on others, and how it may be perceived. I ride a motorbike, and have no issue on being requested to remove my helmet before entering a petrol station, and for years couriers in Briton have been made to remove their helmets before entering a building. I think this is sensible and prudent, although in this case the law says that you have to wear the helmet in the first place which is another matter all together…

I do not have a problem with someone been asked to remove or not wear their burka if it genuinely makes someone feel uncomfortable, or stops someone from carrying out their job in the desired way, just as I don’t have an issue with bars, restaurants and clubs having dress codes, requesting people to wear shirts in bars etc but to universally ban something I feel is draconian, hints too much at superiority, and I fear gives fuel for the less informed to jump on the band wagon far too easily.


At the moment Spain has voted not to ban the burka with 183 opposing the ban and 162 in favour. The nonbinding proposal had been put forward by the leading opposition Popular Party, which portrayed it as a measure in support of women’s rights. The ruling Socialist Party opposed the ban. I suspect this is not the last we have heard on this matter!

Reflection From A Balcony In Spain: By Chris Marshall

Photo Credit: pfatter


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