Belgian regulation concerning hijaab and niqaab

{ Thursday, February 16, 2012 }
Assalaamu aleykum,

In this post I want to give an overview on the Belgian regulation concerning hijaab and niqaab, and my thoughts on the subject.


Concerning the hijaab, there is no national law banning it. However, schools that teach minors are allowed to ban it, and as a result, most schools have adopted this policy. I think almost all schools, except for a few exceptions, don't allow their teachers to wear hijaab either. However they do make an exception for teachers who teach Islam as a subject.
 I have a friend who teaches with hijaab, but she works at the Lucerna college, which is a schoolsystem that was started by rich Turks to give more chances to children of Turkish immigrants. As far as I know, children from other nationalities and Belgians are also welcome, but these schools are typically more tolerant of Islam. The schools are few however, and definitely not present in every city. 

Hijaab is also not allowed for civil servants. Although there is no law banning hijaab on the general workfloor, a lot of companies are not willing to hire a woman who wears hijaab, especially if she needs to come into contact with clients/customers. My friend told me that when she was looking for a job, several employers used to be very interested in hiring her, until they found out she donned the hijaab. I already wrote on this blog about a hijabi girl getting fired from a shop after some customers got offended by her wearing it. A couple of days ago I also read about the boss of a chain of shoe-stores here in Belgium saying he is in need of employees, but he refuses to hire girls in hijaab. The flemish (Dutch) part of Belgium is also typically more closed-minded about this. (Guess where I'm from?) 

Belgian, non-Muslim intellectuals also take part in the debate if hijaab is really obliged, being under the impression that they are so much more enlightened about the subject than all Muslim scholars of all ages since the rise of Islam together. 
For readers who understand Dutch, this article is a case in point. The writer, prof. Etienne Vermeersch, writes: "Although the faceveil (niqaab) and later also the headscarf (hijaab) was indisputably seen by progressive Muslimahs as a symbol of oppression, that [view] seems now to be less the case, especially in the West. Because of course, most Muslim women here don't know the history of women in Islam, or more, because of a misguided education they have developed a totally wrong view about the subject." (My translation)
And because in some Muslim countries, Muslim women are obliged to wear hijaab, he writes that "it's clear that being boss over your own head is not an Islamic tradition." Not a Belgian one either, it seems. He also accuses Muslim women in the West of not caring about their poor oppressed Muslim sisters in those Muslim countries where women are not treated well. 
You see, Mr. Vermeersch has it all figured out, he can even read Muslim women's minds! No need for any more Islamic scholars, he has all the answers! 

Belgium has an anti-discrimination law, but in 2005 the Court of Appeal in Antwerp ruled that schools banning the headscarf were not in contradiction with this law. 
The typical excuse that is used is that a school has the right to regulate their school uniform, and that government institutions should remain neutral, therefore no religious symbols should be allowed.  
There is also the strong belief that hijaab is "oppressive" and that a lot of girls are forced to wear it. This belief was a decisive factor in the banning of hijaab from a lot of schools. Banning of miniskirts due to teenage girls feeling forced to wear it to look good for boys has however not yet taken place.


In June 2011 the niqaab was banned by law in the context of prohibiting the face to be mostly or fully covered in public. To be honest, I'm not sure about this one. I can definitely see a security issue in not being able to identify someone, but to really go and hand out fines to women who wear niqaab...I don't know, it doesn't sit well with me. Also, the women in Belgium who wear niqaab are a very small minority, so why were politicians so determined to ban it? I think the sad answer is because of the growing islamophobia here. 

National and International law

Article 19 of the Belgian constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Article 10 and 11 prohibit discrimination on the base of religion. There is an anti-discrimination law (february 2003) that prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion. 
Belgium has signed international treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the international covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR), all of which take precedence over all national legislation and which can be directly (supposedly) enforced by judges in Belgian courts. 

For more information on the subject, you can go to this site

SubhanAllah, there is so much discrimination going on in Belgium against Muslim women who choose to wear the hijaab, and it really angers me. The federal government hasn't come up with a ban of hijaab by law yet because they haven't found an excuse yet to go around all these treaties they signed. But I shudder to think what will happen if they do. I just can't grasp how it's totally acceptable to turn down a woman because she wears hijaab, to laugh at her and insult her, and to try everything to make her take it off. Is this really freedom, equality, democracy? For the right group of people perhaps. 


MarieHarmony said...

I see Belgium is not better than France on the subject. I never understood the problem with women wearing the Hijaab, why it is a problem in schools or at work? This is absurd to me.

Now concerning the ban on the Niqaab, I did not know Belgium did it too. As you say it concerns a small number of women only, I don't know why they make a great deal about it when many other things, far more important, should be looked after.

This makes life of many women very difficult, it is not fair.

Take care dear. I dream people will start to differentiate extremism and Islam and see the beauty of the Religion instead of taking into accounts the crazy things a bunch of fanatics are doing. Let's hope always.

Safiyah said...

The ban is absurd to me too, Marie :/ Basically it's the same concept they claim to oppose: men telling women what they can and can't wear.

Islam and extremism are still seen as the same thing. You could hear the most ridiculous things coming out of people's mouths, so untrue, and yet they consider themselves experts on islam. It's a kind of neo-orientalism if you ask me.

You take care too, my friend :) I hope you are well!

ASaudi'sGirl? said...

Whatis wrong with people??!!?? Haven't we got better things to worry about then dictating what a woman can or cannot wear!! This topis angers me soo much. I am in Canada and there was a law passed a few years ago that allows women to go topless. How does that make sense, women can walk around without a shirt but not with a scarf on her head??!! I am so angry. Shame on the people who have nothing better to do with their time then to dictate what people can or cannot wear!

QueAe said...

how odd.. dear sisters i'm living in an islamic country (by name of course, the atmosphere wasn't islamic as u thought). yet everyone got freedom to be a hijabis or niqaabis. i pray Allah helps good people like all of you :)

regards from your muslim sister =) salam alaykum

Safiyah said...

I agree with you! Society here doesn't seem to have a problem with seeing women half-naked, no, what they object to is a woman who tries to cover herself!

Becky said...

I had no idea thinks were that bad in Belgium :( makes me sad.

The thing that angers me the most about banning niqab (and even more so hijab of course), is that it's basically misogynist.

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