Headscarf debate sparks in Belgium after civil servant resigns over discrimination

Ihsane Haouach, who resigned from her position as a government commissioner, said that she has been subjected to severe personal attacks.

Brussels: A political debate over the Islamic headscarves erupted in Belgium after a female government employee resigned on Friday over discrimination and online harassment.

Ihsane Haouach (36), a Belgian-Moroccan, who resigned from her position as a government commissioner at the Institute for Equality between Women and Men (IEFH), said that she has been subjected to severe personal attacks since taking the position at the institute ten weeks ago.

According to Euro News, in addition, opposition parties have questioned her appointment as commissioner, citing Belgian law that prohibits civil servants who come into regular contact with the public from carrying religious symbols.

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However, Belgium prime minister, Alexandre de Croo on Monday defended Haouach’s appointment, stating that no federal regulations had been violated, as she was not a “public body civil servant.”

Previously, Haouach publicly denounced the ban on wearing religious symbols as “discriminatory”.

As per the media reports, in 2011, the Belgium house of representatives unanimously passed a law banning the face veil for security reasons and the emancipation of Muslim women, in which headscarves and face coverings, including the niqab and hijab, are seen as symbols of oppression.

In support of this, the European court of human rights in France upheld Belgium’s ban on the Islamic headscarf and niqab, finding it non-discriminatory. It also defended Belgium’s right to implement the law and considered it necessary for a democratic society that guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for all.

Similar laws were also introduced by France, Switzerland, Austria, Latvia, Bulgaria, Germany, and Denmark. France was the first western country to ban the niqab and headscarves in public in the year 2010.

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