In Surprise Move, Spain Senate Passes Burqa Ban

In a significant escalation of Spain’s debate over how to handle radical Islam, the Senate on Wednesday, 21 July 2010, narrowly and unexpectedly approved a motion to ban Muslim women from wearing in public the burqa or other garments that cover the whole body. The vote, 131 to 129, was another setback for the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which had favored more-limited restrictions on Islamic clothing and has instead been pushing to curtail religious fundamentalism through better education. (See report of Raphael Minder, The New York Times.)

The Spanish parliament had on Tuesday, 20 July 2010, rejected a proposed general ban of the full Islamic veil for women in public places, by a vote of 183 against and 162 for, with two abstentions. The proposal had been put forward by the Popular Party, which characterized it as a measure in support of women’s rights. The ruling ruling Socialist Party opposed the ban, though the government did express support for the notion of banning the wearing of the burqa in government buildings. A small number of Spanish towns and cities, including in the country’s second-largest city, Barcelona, had already banned the wearing of burqas and niqabs in municipal buildings.