The Director of Religious Affairs opposes ban of burqa and niqab

Montserrat Coll, the director of Religious Affairs in Catalonia, has spoken out against the new law to ban full-face veils in municipal buildings. She stresses that mediation and dialogue are the best way out of the debate.

Marta Bausells

June 28, 2010 04:10 AM

Barcelona (CNA).- The director of Religious Affairs of the Catalan Government, Montserrat Coll, attended the opening of the 3rd Young Muslims Meeting, organised by the Cultural Islamic Council of Catalonia. Her presence comes at a time when there is considerable public debate surrounding the controversial ban by several city councils of the burqa and the niqab, the two main kinds of Islamic face veils. At the meeting, Coll stated that she considers the ban inappropriate and unnecessary.
Coll defended the non-regulation of the integral veil. “There has been far too much debate on this issue and there are already several laws in place to fight against impositions on women”, she said. While declaring that “the Government respects local autonomy”, Coll warned that the ban could be counterproductive and could lead to women staying at home. This would lead to a certain contradiction given that one of the arguments in the whole debate is the preservation of women’s rights. She also stated, “we should not fall into the trap of those who want to create xenophobia”.

Although the meeting, held at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), was focussed on health and young Muslims, the debate soon turned to the regulation of the Islamic veil. Mohammed Halhoul, spokesman for the Cultural Islamic Council of Catalonia, said that he thinks the veil has been used for political ends, and that the burqa and niqab in Catalonia are worn by a minority of Muslim women. Both Coll and Halhoul think that the only valid way out of the situation is through mediation and dialogue, which Coll thinks is what most Catalans want.