Bosnia drops veil ban bill from discussion
Sarajevo, July 29, 2010
Bosnia's lawmakers dropped from discussion a proposed bill on banning full-length Islamic veils in public places after a woman wearing a niqab attended the parliamentary session as a visitor.
The Muslim and Croat deputies were unlikely to support the bill proposed by the Bosnian Serb largest party after their delegates in a parliamentary commission said it would violate the human rights and religious freedoms.
The parliament was supposed to discuss the commission report but failed to do so because the Serb deputies said they were threatened by the presence of the woman in the niqab who they said was hiding her identity.
The woman identified herself as Nadja Dizdarevic, a human rights activist who organised a protest of a group of veiled women against the bill this week. She is married to an Algerian-born Bosnian citizen who was kept in the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay but was released in late 2008.
"I am surprised, disappointed and hurt that ... my attendance at the session has been a problem," said Dizdarevic, who was asked to leave the parliament building after the deputies decided to drop the bill from the discussion.
Belgium and France have passed bills under which women could be fined for appearing in public with the all-covering burqa or the niqab, which leaves the eyes exposed, arguing it poses a security risk because of the inability to identify people wearing it.
Bosnia's national parliament comprises deputies from the Balkan country's two autonomous and rival regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.
The initiative by the Serb Republic ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats to ban the burqa in public spaces is widely seen as aimed raising inter-religious tension ahead of a national election scheduled for October 3.
Only a handful of women wear the niqab and even fewer the burqa in Bosnia, where generally moderate Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks represent the largest ethnic group.
Parliament will discuss the bill at its next session on September 1. – Reuters