Belgian schools will ban the Islamic veil. This was the decision taken by 700 Dutch-language public schools in the northern region of Flanders, including some in Brussels, a suit by many European countries. “In this way, will be promoted the feeling of equality and it is going to be possible to prevent group formation or segregation on the basis of external symbols,” school officials said to the press.
School officials argue that the ban was taken to guarantee equal treatment of all pupils within the school grounds. “There is a problem when there is pressure on one group because we want to live together in reciprocity,” said Karin Heremans, the principal of a Dutch-language school. She added, “Everyone has to feel good in this school. Here we have the case of a social minority that became majority. So it became a problem.” Especially as most schools in Flanders are Catholic.
However, as soon as this decision was announced, dozens of people gathered in front of two high schools in the Belgian city of Antwerp to protest against the veil’s prohibition. “This ban is against the freedom of religion and violates the right to an education for young Muslims,” said Samira Azabar, one of the protest organisers.
In the meantime, Muslim communities are taking these issues to court.
Last Tuesday, in the southern Belgian region of Wallonia, a court authorized three girl students between the ages of 9 and 10, to attend classes wearing their Islamic veil. Yet, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, school authorities have again denied access to the school to the girls on the grounds that it is ultimately up to the school directors to decide about students’ dress codes. More legal steps are expected to be taken by the Muslim communities, to change the school’s decisions.
So far the Belgian government has assumed a “neutral” stand between the religious and the secular, leaving the decision on banning or allowing veils to school authorities. On the question of initiatives against Islamic dress codes, some MPs have announced a proposal to ban the burqa in Belgium. This proposal suggests that wearing a burqa that masks or hides the identity of the person under the veil should be prohibited in public. Violations of this law would result in a penalty charge of EUR 15 to 25 and/or imprisonment of between one and seven days.
Christine Defraigne, one of the proponents, said that women are under no religious obligation to wear the burqa. “The Quran does not mention it. Banning women from wearing these items is not refusing Islam as a religion. The burqa and the niqab personify the subjugation of the individual and social dehumanisation.”
However, while these considerations about Islamic outfits are to be endorsed, one should be concerned about the justifications that accompany them: “The Quran does not mention it”. What if it had? Should a modern State be following a secular policy or take decisions on the basis of what a religious book says?
Despite the current initiatives in some European countries to limit the use of Islamic dresses in schools, the problem is that the West is not prepared to deal with the radical Islamization of Muslim communities. The West, so proud of its liberties and of its secular institutions, shakes when it deals with Islamism. After years of rhetoric about the beauty of multiculturalism and the political correctness that goes along with it, the West seems to forget that the founding principles that govern its societies should apply to everybody, regardless of religion, race or ethnical group.
If immigrants from different cultures and religions are to be fully integrated in Western societies it is imperative that they accept and share with the rest of the society some basic and fundamental principles of living together. Instead, the idea seems to prevail that immigrants should follow their own and separate path of cultural development.
In the UK, the government even went as far as adopting officially Islamic law, with Sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases. The government quietly sanctioned the power for Sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence. Is this the melting pot the fathers of multiculturalism were dreaming of?
As a result of this attitude we assist the transformation of entire suburbs of large cities in the UK and France into ghettos, no-go areas forbidden to ‘non-believers” and even to the police. This is no melting pot or cultural mosaic; it’s just anarchy.