The politics of Muslim women’s dress – a timeline

With news this week of UKIP planning to advocate for a ban on the full face veil, the Muslimah Diaries team takes a look at European legislation, passed and attempted, around the forever controversial issue of Muslim women’s dress.


2003 – Germany’s federal constitutional court rules in favour of an Afghan-born teacher who wants to wear an Islamic scarf to school. But it says states can change their laws locally if they want to. Half of Germany’s regions go on to ban teachers from wearing headscarves.

2004 – France’s national assembly begins debating a bill to ban religious symbols, including Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, from schools.

2006 – UK House of Lords overturns appeal decision, preventing teenager Shabina Begum from wearing jilbab to school

March 2010 – A key committee in Belgium votes to implement the first European ban against wearing the burqa and niqab in public. “I am proud that Belgium would be the first country in Europe which dares to legislate on this sensitive matter,” says the centre-right MP Denis Ducarme. But it is the French government that imposes the first ban. A law banning the full-face veil does not come into effect in Belgium until July 2011, three months after the French ban.

June 2010 – Barcelona announced a ban on full Islamic face-veils in some public spaces such as municipal offices, public markets and libraries. The city council said the ban targeted any head-wear that impeded identification, including motorbike helmets and balaclavas.

2011 – Under a decree by the French prime minister, François Fillon, women are banned from wearing the niqab in any public place. Under the first ban of its kind in Europe, face veils are outlawed virtually anywhere outside women’s homes, except when worshipping in a religious place or travelling as a passenger in a car.

2013 – UK Liberal Democrat MP Jeremy Browne said there needs to be a national debate about whether the state should step in to protect young women from having the veil “imposed” on them.

2014 – The European court of human rights upholds France’s burqa ban. The judges say preservation of a certain idea of “living together” is the “legitimate aim” of the French authorities.

May 2015 – The Dutch cabinet approves a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils on public transport and in public areas. The ban does not apply to wearing the burqa or the niqab on the street, except when there are specific security reasons.

December 2015 – Lombardy, the wealthiest region in Italy, approved a ban on women wearing the niqab in hospitals and local government buildings.

January 2016 – The former UK prime minister David Cameron says he will back institutions with “sensible rules” over Muslims wearing full-face veils, but rules out a full public ban.

July 2016 – In the Swiss region of Tessin, Muslim women who wear the niqab in shops, restaurants or public buildings can be fined up to €9,200 (£7,890).

August 2016 – France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, defends municipal bans on body covering burkini swimwear designed for Muslim women after mayors impose burkini bans in several seaside towns including Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet, and Sisc on the island of Corsica.

September 2016 – Bulgaria banned the niqab in a bid to boost security. It was driven by Bulgaria’s nationalist Patriotic Front coalition.

December 2016The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, endorses a partial ban on the burqa and the niqab. “The full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible,” she says.

January 2017Austria’s ruling coalition agrees to prohibit full-face veils such as the burqa and niqab in courts and schools. It also pledges to investigate banning headscarves for women employed in public services, in a move designed to hold the ruling coalition together by placating the anti-immigration Freedom party.

March 2017 – In its first decision on the headscarf issue the European court of justice rules that employers can bar staff from wearing visible religious symbols. But the court also rules that customers cannot simply demand that workers remove headscarves if the company has no policy barring religious symbols.

April 2017 – UKIP moves to advocate for niqab ban in June election manifesto


The fact that a mere piece of fabric can warrant such an explosive reaction in indicative of how powerful the action of women covering themselves is. By turning their backs on the idea that women are judged for their appearance and outwardly showing their commitment to God, Muslim women challenge the very foundations of modern secular societies. And so the hypocrisy of the West is exposed in being unable to tolerate the freedoms it proudly promotes and have forcefully taken to other countries.

We pray that our sisters do not become disheartened by such legislation, but remain strong and true to their beliefs.




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