Spanish city bans face-covering Islamic veils in public buildings

Lleida, Spain - The Spanish city of Lleida has became the first in the country to implement a ban on the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils in municipal buildings.

Lleida, in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, approved the legislation in May but procedural issues delayed its implementation.

"I feel proud that Lleida is the first city in Spain to regulate against something that is discriminatory against women," the mayor, Angel Ros, told state-run radio.

The gesture is largely symbolic because only about 3% of Lleida's population is Muslim and only a handful wear body-covering burqas or face-covering niqabs.

Spain has a population of 47 million, of which around 1 million are Muslim. Most live in Catalonia and the southern region of Andalucia, but burqas are rarely seen in public.

Other towns and cities including the Catalan capital, Barcelona, have taken similar steps – but bans are yet to take effect.

The Spanish government is considering including the ban in a future law covering a variety of religious issues.