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Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
March 31, 2010


WASHINGTON—Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) called today for increased religious tolerance in response to mixed reports from Europe regarding bans on Muslim veils known as burqas.

“We welcome the news from the French Council of State, which found that the country’s burqa ban would be unconstitutional and discriminatory,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman of the Helsinki Commission. “It is disturbing that Muslim dress and religious practices continue to be the target of prejudice in France, Belgium, and many other OSCE countries.”

“Continued attempts by governments to ban burqas run counter to international commitments to uphold religious freedom,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “Simply put, these bans are code for anti-Muslim bigotry. Political leaders need to focus on efforts that will bring their countrymen and women together, not divide them.”

The French Council of State said Tuesday that a total public ban on the burqa or niqab could violate the French constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

A Belgian parliamentary committee voted unanimously Wednesday to ban the public wearing of face-covering veils. If enacted into law, the ban would make Belgium the first European country to impose such a religious prohibition.
Media Contact: Neil Simon
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