Spanish towns consider Islamic veil ban

Madrid, Spain - Several Spanish towns with immigrant populations are considering banning the full-face Islamic veil, media reported Wednesday.

The city of Lerida in Catalonia banned the burqa last week and others in same wealthy northeastern province now want to follow.

“Political parties’ crusade against the burqa is spreading in Catalonia, to the perplexity of Muslims,” El Pais newspaper wrote, adding that six towns were to debate a ban on wearing the veil in public.

Such bans were proposed by the opposition Popular Party, the Catalan nationalist CiU or by the extreme right Partit per Cataluna in the towns of Reus, El Vendrell, Tarragone, Tarrega and Cervera, La Vanguardia paper reported.

The Socialist mayor of Cunit, Judith Alberich, was on Wednesday to propose banning the full face veil in municipal buildings, as Lerida did on Friday, becoming the first Spanish town to do so.

La Vanguardia quoted Alberich, who is also a senator, as saying she would call for a discussion in the upper house of “the problem of banning the full face veil in Spain.”

However, Secretary of State for Immigration Anna Terron said there would not be a national debate on the matter as “this government is trying to focus on real problems” while the bans result from “a vague fear of the other.”

The Islamic veil has sparked intense debate in many European countries, with Belgian deputies last month backing a draft law banning the garment in public places, including on the streets, in a first for Europe.

France’s cabinet has also approved a draft law to ban the full-face veil from public spaces, opening the way for the text to go before parliament in July.

The issue is a relatively new in Spain, an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country which has seen the number of immigrants living within its borders soar from around half a million in 1996 to 5.6 million last year, out of a total population of 46 million people.

Moroccans make up one of the largest immigrant communities.