BRUSSELS — A Belgian city has rescinded a six-year-old ban on the wearing of hijab, allowing civil servants to don the religious outfit, to the jubilance of the Muslim community.
“This is a historic turning point for ethnic and cultural minorities,” Naima Charkaoui, director of Forum of Minorities, told Reuters on Tuesday, May 28.
Ghent city, Belgium’s third largest, has banned the wearing of hijab in 2007 after center-right parties dominated the city council.
The ban has prevented Muslim women in headscarves from sitting at public counters in city offices.
A similar ban on hijab was introduced in 2007 in Belgium’s second city Antwerp.
But the ban has prompted calls for removing the ban and granting Muslims the right to wear what they want.
More than 10,000 residents, or about five times the number required to call for a vote, have signed a petition to ask for lifting the hijab ban.
The citizen action was organized by the Forum of Minorities group.
Reaching the city council, currently dominated by Socialist and Green majority, the issue was debated for four hours until midnight Monday.
After lengthy debates, 29 of the city council’s 51 members voted to rescind the ban on the wearing of religious or political symbols for city officials dealing with the public.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
The Muslim headscarf came into storm since France banned the wearing of hijab in public places in 2004.
Several European countries have followed the French suit, amid raging debates in other states about the Muslim outfit.
Belgian Muslims are estimated at 450,000 – out of a 10-million-population.