(Reuters) - France’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to ban full-length Islamic veils in public places.
So far in Europe, only Belgium has made wearing the burqa or niqab a criminal offence, although movements to ban the garments are gathering pace. Polls in Italy, Spain, Germany and Britain have indicated widespread support.
The burqa is a complete head-to-toe covering, while the niqab leaves the eyes uncovered.
Here is a summary of policies in some major European countries on veils and other religious symbols:
FRANCE: The French law, which still needs approval by the Senate, would mean women wearing the full veil can be fined 150 euros (126 pounds). It must also go to the Constitutional Council for review.
— France has Europe’s largest Muslim minority — about 5 million people, or nearly 10 percent of the population. Headscarves are already banned from state primary and secondary schools under a law against conspicuous religious symbols that also includes Jewish kippas and large Christian crosses.
— Like teachers, other civil servants may also not wear any religious symbols at work. But students at university may wear headscarves, since they are adults.
BELGIUM: Belgium’s lower house on April 29 overwhelmingly approved a bill making it an offence to wear a full Islamic face veil in public.
— The bill envisages fines of 15-25 euros and imprisonment for up to seven days. — The expected approval by the upper house, or Senate, has been delayed by post-election coalition talks.
GERMANY: Germany’s Interior Minister in May rejected calls to ban full veils, though the policy is a matter for the 16 individual regional states.
— Seven of the state have banned teachers in state schools from wearing Islamic headscarves, angering Muslim groups.
— Most of Germany’s more than 4 million Muslims are of Turkish origin.
ITALY: Italy has not passed any national legislation but some towns have been trying to ban burqas with local decrees.
— A 1975 law stipulates fines and up to two years in jail for those who cover their face with anything that prevents their identification by police.
— A 26-year-old Tunisian woman was fined 500 euros under a local bylaw for wearing a face veil while walking to a mosque in the northern Italian city of Novara in May.
— The bylaw was introduced in January by the mayor, and bans clothing in public that prevents identification by police.
NETHERLANDS: The Dutch government has decided that a broad ban on full veils would violate the principle of freedom of religion, but is considering banning them from schools and government offices.
— Representatives of the Netherlands’ 1 million Muslims say very few women wear the burqa or the niqab, and that a general ban would heighten the community’s alienation.
SPAIN: Barcelona last month became the first big city in predominantly Roman Catholic Spain to forbid full face veils in public buildings such as markets and libraries. Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu resisted calls to ban them in all public spaces because he said it was outside the jurisdiction of a municipality. The ban is due to take effect after the summer.
SWITZERLAND: While federal leaders mostly oppose a national ban on face veils, right-wing politicians in Aargau, Bern and Solothurn cantons have started to impose regional bans.
TURKEY: Mainly Muslim but constitutionally secular, Turkey bans Islamic headdress in universities and public offices, although the issue is a focus of intense controversy between Muslims and secularists.
Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Additional writing and editing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit