A Belgian parliamentary committee voted on Wednesday to ban the full Islamic face veil in a move could be seemed as a ban against freedom and spark critics by human rights bodies.
Those who ignore it could face a fine of 15-25 euros (20-34 dollars) and/or a jail sentence of up to seven days, unless they have police permission to wear the garments.
The decision comes amid controversy in the kingdom over the wearing of Muslim religious symbols in public places.
Meanwhile, the Catholic bishop -- Belgium is traditionally Catholic -- in the southern town of Tournai, Guy Harpigny, said: "Does the state really have the right to regulate the symbols of personal beliefs?"
Despite ban has been urged under the pretext of identifying face, Daniel Bacquelaine, the bill's chief promoter, said that local mayors could suspend the ban during festivities such as Carnival when people traditionally wear costumes, including masks, Reuters reported.
The lower house of parliament will vote on the bill on April 22 and, if ratified, it could enter into law in June or July.
Some lawmakers in France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, have called for full Islamic veils to be banned, although a top advisory board said on Tuesday that this would carry serious constitutional risks.
The draft law proposes to criminalise wearing clothing that covers all or part of the face, including the facial veil known as the niqab and the full outer garment, or burqa.
The French-speaking liberals have proposed the law. Bacquelaine said the ban might also be used against what he said potentially "violent demonstrators" who covered their faces.
He estimated that a few hundred women in Belgium wore facial veils, adding that it was a rising trend.
The bill received unanimous backing in parliament's home affairs committee. It could lead to fines of 15-25 euros (about $20-$34) and imprisonment for up to seven days.
AgenciesGüncelleme Tarihi: 01 Nisan 2010, 08:17