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Passion Islam I August 2010


Spain parliament rejects burqa ban propsal

Spain’s Parliament rejected a proposal to ban women wearing the face veil in public places, citing protection of personal freedoms.

The proposal to ban women from wearing a veil that only reveals the eyes was presented by the leading opposition Popular Party on the grounds that the outfit, also called burqa, violates the rights of women and undermines their dignity.

Following a debate that took place in the parliament’s lower chamber, 162 MPs voted for the ban, 183 opposed it, and two abstained. According to the Popular Party, the proposal was put forward “in defense of the dignity and equality of all women” and to make sure Muslim

women are not being forced by their husbands to become fully veiled. “It is very difficult to understand how it is that our troops are defending liberty in Afghanistan and the government doesn’t have the courage to do so here, in Spain,” said opposition spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

Some analysts argue that the main purpose of the proposal is strengthening the opposition amid the economic problems with which the government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been plighted.

“This has been used politically in a search for electoral support,” said Mansur Escudero, president of the Islamic

Commission of Spain. He added that the last time he had seen a fully veiled women in Spain was 10 years ago in the southern city of Marbella, where several wealthy Arabs own houses, and that this woman might have been a tourist. “The only woman I

knew who regularly wore a burqa had lived in the southern city of Cordoba and died about a decade ago.”

None of the opposition spokesmen had been able to cite a place in Spain where women routinely wear face-covering veils.

Human rights committee discusses draft of the right to freedom of expression

The Human Rights Committee continued its first reading of a draft General Comment on State parties’ obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, setting out the rights to hold an opinion without interference and to freedom of expression.

Committee Experts recommended that the language of the draft General Comment be more explicit in its description of statutory acts because that language could mean different things in different cultures; perhaps the Committee should be explicit that it meant acts adopted by legislative bodies when it referred to statutory acts. In general observations on the draft General Comment, a Committee Member asked whether the working documents of the Committee could be made available to the outside world as it would be valuable to hear comments

and feedback.

Other Committee Member noted that it was important not to be too explicit as this could limit the list of subordinate laws that were often used to limit the freedom of expression, including local bylaws, traditional or customary law and religious law.

An Expert noted that legal systems were rich and varied so in some countries the concepts of informal law, customary law, or religious law were not concepts that were subscribed to so the use of that language could be confusing. Michael O’Flaherty, the Committee Expert serving as rapporteur for the draft General Comment, introduced a revised draft text which took into account comments made by Committee Members during the March 2010 session, as well as revisions that were made and approved at that last session. The updated text contained a set of

general remarks and included sections on freedom of opinion; the scope of the right of freedom of expression; freedom of expression and the media; access to information; freedom of expression and political rights; limitations on freedom of expression; restrictions on political expression; restrictions on expression by the media and related information gathering/disseminating actors; restrictions related to counter-terrorism measures; restrictions and defamation laws; restrictions and blasphemy laws; restrictions and “memory laws”; and the relationship between articles 19 and 20 (prohibition of war propaganda or advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence). The Committee reviews the document on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. Experts commented and proposed changes to the draft General Comment.

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