Lleida finally approves full-face veil ban in public institutions

The Lleida City Hall approved the controversial ordinance that prohibits the use of headwear in municipal buildings, including the burqa or niqab, as well as helmets or other clothing fully covering the face. Islamic local groups are at odds as to whether or not the ban is justified. The ban does not apply to the street, private spaces or buildings owned by other public instituitions.


October 9, 2010 12:37 AM

Lleida (ACN).-  On Friday, the Lleida City Hall came to a decision regarding the use of full-face veils in municipal buildings. The controversial ban proposal has been talked about for months, and today it was finally approved. The City Hall Assembly approved the ban to prohibit headwear such as helmets, masks or burqas with votes from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU), the Conservative People’s Party (PP), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and an independent councilman. The Muslim community has shown division on the issue. The Watanni Association has chosen to challenge the action in court, while the Atlas Association accepted the City Council’s ban as a measure of security.

Modifying Lleida's civil ordinance to regulate the use of Islamic veils has meant, on one side, gathering the support from majority parties (only the councilman for the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV) voted against it and 2 members from the Catalan Independence Party (ERC) abstained), and on the other side, showing that the Muslim community sees the issue in different ways.

The city councilwoman for security, Sara Mestres, assured that the prohibition of Islamic veils in public institutions is justified because “it does not only regulate the use of veils, but it also prohibits any other kind of headwear that covers the face and impedes communication with other people”. According to Mestres, all of this has a “juridical foundation that puts security on the forefront”. Lleida mayor Àngel Ros brought up the several pioneering initiatives that the city has started to promote integration and coexistence such as an assembly of religions and now the regulation to “foster equality between men and women”.

The Muslim Atlas Association supports the prohibition. Their spokesperson, Omar Charad, stated that they “support the prohibition because the burqa and niqab are not part of the Muslim religion”. Charad criticised other organisations like the Watanni Association for being fundamentalist and opportunist and “only wanting to generate irritation”. According to the Atlas Association, the civil ordinance shows a “good position” on the issue.

The spokesperson for the Watanni Association, Mourad El Boudouhi, called the ordinance “an abuse of power by the public administration”, the City Hall of Lleida and the rest of the Catalan towns that are following in Lleida’s footsteps, such as El Vendrell or Cunit. It “goes against the Spanish Constitution and European and UN agreements signed by the Spanish State”, he stated. Watanni plans to take the issue to court “to defend the liberties of Muslim women”.