Ban on head scarf in Belgian Senate

Among particular population groups in this country, the wearing of conspicuous religious attire is increasingly becoming more popular. It concerns the head scarf worn by most Muslim women, the Jewish Kippa, or the turbans of the Sikhs.

Therefore, the governments of various countries enacted a ban on wearing garments such as the Islamic veil in schools, or, at least, they started a discussion about this tricky issue. In secular Turkey, head scarves have already been expelled from schools, public office and the work place a long time ago. In line with this general ban, the head scarf neither is allowed in the Turkish Parliament.

Article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights stipulates: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

First and foremost, we would like to stress that the proposed law on banning political-religious symbols within the Belgian Senate, is not intended to violate the universal right to freedom of religion. Moreover, in a country such as Turkey, millions of Muslim women already show, it is perfectly normal to confess Islam and, at the same time, not wear a head scarf. From that we can conclude that head scarves or veils are not obliged by Islam, but, instead, are imposed on women by the followers of Islam’s ideological component commonly known as fundamentalism. The French Minister of Education once wisely retorted when asked whether a head scarf ban in schools would not breach the freedom of worship: “Prayer is mandatory, veiling oneself, however, is not.”

Considering that a ban on headdress by no means harms the freedom of religion as such, and that Parliament ought to be a pre-eminent place of religious neutrality, the initiator of this legislative proposal holds that headpieces with a political-religious meaning should be prohibited by way of amending the Senate rule. This ban should be applicable to both visitors and Senators, as well as to all who have access to the plenary hall.

We would also like to point out that this proposed law neither wants to give rise to religious discrimination. Access to the Senate isn’t by any means forbidden on the grounds of faith. Every citizen is free to attend parliamentary sessions, as an elect in the plenary assembly, or as a non-elect at the public gallery. However, admission must be denied to every individual wearing veils, head scarves, turbans, Kippas, or any other headpiece expressing or referring to a religious conviction.