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MRG expresses concern regarding proposed Bosnian ban on full-face veils

31 August 2010

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) today urges the Bosnian parliament to vote against a bill on the wearing of full-face veils, saying that the move does not respect the fundamental religious rights of the country’s Muslim community.

The Bosnian Central Parliament is to debate the proposal on 1 September.

“Bosnian citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, should be able to manifest their faith freely and without discrimination. MRG strongly urges MPs to reject the ban, which represents a worrying incursion into the civil liberties of religious minorities,” says Carl Söderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.

The law would impose a 24-hour curfew on women wearing a full-face veil and offenders would be liable to a 50 Euro fine. Muslim Bosnian activists have launched a campaign against the proposed ban.

Muslims have been the target of increased state controls as well as populist campaigns in several European countries. The lower houses of Belgium and France have recently approved bans on the wearing of full-face veils. In Spain, however, the Senate has vetoed a similar proposal.

Religious traditions and customs are of fundamental importance to religious minorities and their way of life. European as well as international human rights law provide for the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression.

“The freedom of religious expression is a basic principle of international law. Bosnian parliamentarians should not let themselves be duped into proposals influenced by populist ideas,” added Söderbergh.

Some Muslims believe that it is a religious requirement for women to wear a full-face veil such as niqab or burka. It is also considered as a cultural or traditional form of dress code by some sections of the Muslim community.