Belgium is expected today to become the first nation to ban face-covering Muslim veils in public. Supporters of the bill say they're motivated by concerns about security as well as taking action to protect women's rights. "We think all people in public must show their face," Belgium lawmaker Denis Ducarme tells CNN. In addition, "we must defend our values" concerning "the freedom and dignity of the woman." The law isn't a sign of religious intolerance, he added, because Islam does not require that women hide their faces, though one Muslim leader said the bill smacked of "colonialism."
Only some 400 of the 280,000 Muslims who live in Belgium wear face-covering veils, Ducarme estimates. France is also preparing a final bill to ban the veils that President Nicolas Sarkozy has called "an assault on women's dignity," even though legal advisers warn that such a law may be unconstitutional, notes the Telegraph. Both bills would ban any veil that covers a woman's face, including the niqab and burka. Polls have revealed that a majority of Europeans favor such a ban, but Muslim leaders warn the actions will trigger a backlash.