17th Mar 2018

Flemish nationalist offers anti-burqa reward

  • Contrasting attire in London: Belgium and France banned the full veil last year, even though few Islamic women wear burqas in Europe (Photo: fabbio)

The European Network Against Racism (Enar), an NGO based in Brussels, has condemned a Flemish nationalist for offering a reward of €250 to anybody who reports Burqa-wearing women to the Belgian police.

Filip Dewinter, from Belgium's right wing Vlaams Belang party, announced the initiative on Tuesday (5 June) after police arrested a 24-year old Burqa-clad woman in Brussels for refusing to remove her veil.

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Belgium, like France, banned the full face veil last year, with offenders facing up to €150 in fines.

Belgian authorities say the law applies to anyone who partly or entirely covers their face in a public area whether using an Islamic veil or any other mask.

For his part, De Winter claims police are hesitant to enforce the ban in case it provokes civil unrest and says his reward will put pressure on authorities to do their job.

The NGO says the law in practice stigmatises a specific religious minority.

"This latest action supported by Vlaams Belang chief Filip Dewinter further confirms the racist and xenophobic nature of this party ... [It] is clearly in violation of EU and Belgian laws prohibiting incitement to hatred and discrimination," Enar chairman Chibo Onyej said.

Meanwhile, an Islamist group called Sharia4Belgium on Sunday held a protest in Brussels city centre against the young woman's arrest.

Police in turn arrested 13 members of the group for public disturbance.

Belgium's Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, a state financed institution, has criticised both Sharia4Belgium and Dewinter for inciting hatred.

Dewinter in April launched a website inciting people to denounce migrants who work on the black. The site was modelled on a similar one launched in the Netherlands by populist politician Geert Wilders.

At the time, the Centre likened Dewinter's initiative to Nazi practices in the 1930s and to the Stasi secret police in east Germany in the Communist period.

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