Burka ban in Lleida

The high court of Catalonia has ruled against the petition of Watani, a Muslim association, which was trying to get a ban on the use of the burka in Lleida suspended. The ban on the use of the burka in municipal buildings is due to come into effect today.

According to Carlos Antolí, the lawyer representing Watani, the ban on the free use of the burka infringes on fundamental human rights. The association also alleges that the ban on the use of the burka in municipal buildings in Lleida is a form of religious discrimination.

According to Antolí municipal safety was not the real motive behind the ban and said that his team had asked whether there was any proof whether the use of the burka damaged the security of the town hall or any other municipal buildings.

Under the new law governing the use of the burka anybody wearing the burka in a municipal building in Lleida could be fined between 30 and 600 euros. The final approval of the order banning the burka in October also places a ban on the use of the full body veil, the niqab.

The town hall of Lleida says that it has not prepared any special security measures to enforce the ban although Sara Mestres, the municipal advisor on Civil Security, says that each municipal building will be responsible for enforcing the ban and that if anybody is seen entering one of the buildings wearing a veil covering their face or body the local police will be informed and appropriate action taken.

Mestres says that for the town hall it is simply a question of security and communication as well as being a preventative measure. The ban also covers the use of balaclavas and motorbike helmets.

Mestres also recognises that the ban is aiming to achieve equality between men and women. She says that the town hall has also taken this action so that all women have the ability to comunicate freely.

Over the last few days Mestres has repeatedly insisted that while freedom and security are both fundamental rights when one infringes on another security is more important because in this particular case it is a collective right.