Burqa ban in Lleida´s municipal buildings enters into force

Lleida began applying the new municipal regulation yesterday, becoming the first Spanish city to do so. The city’s Socialist mayor Àngel Ros says the new rule is a “pedagogical” tool rather than a punishment.

CNA / S. Miret

December 10, 2010 10:14 PM

Lleida (ACN).- The ban on the use of veils and other clothing that covers the face in Lleida’s municipal buildings entered into force this Thursday. The official reason is that the full-face veil prevents identification. The measure aims at promoting "respect for the dignity of women and values of equality and tolerance," said the Socialist mayor of Lleida, Àngel Ros. He believes that this new regulation will provide “pedagogical” tools to citizens rather than become a penalty measure. In fact, Ros hopes that “it will not be necessary to apply fines, but instead educate people to be guided by equality in order to achieve integration”.

Although Lleida is a city where Islamic veils and burqas are not often seen despite a large Muslim population, these full-body-covering clothes have sparked intense debate. In fact, the City Council has a record of 20 women wearing full-face veils. For some people, this is too much, for others, it is not a matter of numbers, but principles. Others do not see any problem with women wearing full-face veils or do not think banning its use is the solution. The City Council and the population are divided on this issue.

This new municipal regulation was approved during the summer and entered into force yesterday. Lleida’s City Council states that with this ban, they want to encourage the image of tolerance and equality among all citizens by allowing balanced opportunities.

This new regulation will affect public buildings and spaces such as schools, sport centres and public markets. No one will be able to access them wearing a full-face covering piece of clothing, such as a burqa, a niqab, a helmet or a mask. From now on, authorities will ensure that everyone is respecting the law.

Under the new regulation, any women wearing a burqa or niqab will be asked to take it off by police. If they do not want to do so, they will see their access to municipal buildings banned. If the person is already inside a municipal building and does not want to take the veil off, police may be allowed to take the means to identify them, even if this means taking them to the police station. They could even face a fine of up to 600 euros.

Socialist mayor Àngel Ros’ aim to prohibit full-body covering clothes in certain public areas is still seen as an attack against the Muslim community by a large part of the population. However, some Muslims say that they understand and support the measure, although others see it as a clear offence.