Muslims, politicians wonder why opponents of migration want to ban a rarely-seen item of clothing.
Transitions Online (tol.org) 20 January 2016
Plans to ban the burqa in Latvia and Estonia are dividing public opinion, with some claiming their value in preserving local identity, while others contest their need in countries where the burqa is almost unknown.
Latvian Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs said a ban was needed “not to ensure public order and security, but to protect Latvia’s cultural values, our common public and cultural space, and each individual,” according to the Baltic Times.
The draft proposal, which has yet to be approved by the government, would ban the wearing of the burqa in all public places.
In neighboring Estonia, the Muslim community is questioning the need for a ban, since very few Muslim women wear a hijab (a veil that covers the head and chest), and next to none wear a burqa, Lembi Treumuth, from the Estonian Islamic Center in Tallinn, told the newspaper.
“We think there are much more important things in society that politicians should address, instead of wasting time on such matter,” Treumuth added.
Rainer Saks, Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called such a ban “premature,” in the absence of any thorough debate and analysis of its implications.
• Lithuania also considered the ban in 2015, at the height of the immigrant crisis, as a preventive security measure, according to Arturas Paulauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee.
• The Baltics’ wariness of Islamic female dress might be a byproduct of the regional reluctance to accept migrant quotas, The Economist suggests.
• Most Lithuanian officials dismissed Paulauskas’ proposal for a ban as absurd, according to The Economist. “I suggest you look around the streets to see how many women cover their faces,” Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis said. “I have seen none.”
• Although Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania accepted the European Commission’s migrant quota scheme, committing them to take in a total of 2,000 asylum seekers, all three countries declared their opposition to mandatory quotas, while the public response to the refugees was less than welcoming.
• Lithuanian churches have sponsored the migration of a few dozen Christian migrants from Syria and Iraq. Slovakia, whose prime minister is an outspoken opponent of Muslim immigration, has also accepted Christian families, as has the Czech Republic.
Baltic Burqa Ban Plans Questioned (1)