World News‎ > ‎

Belgian right-wingers offer burqa bounty

posted 5 Jun 2012, 14:12 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 5 Jun 2012, 14:23 ]

Belgian right-wingers have offered to pay a 250 euros ($310) reward to anyone who reports a veiled woman to police.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (JUNE 5, 2012)(REUTERS) - Fed-up with what they describe as the non-enforcement of a burqa ban, Belgian right-wingers have offered to pay a 250 euros ($310) bounty to anyone who reports a full-veiled woman to police in the wake of face veil riots in Brussels.

Filip Dewinter, a senior figure within Vlaams Belang, a right-wing party, told Reuters on Tuesday (June 5) the riots had made police apprehensive about enforcing the burqa ban and that the payment should put pressure on authorities to further enforce it.

"In this country there is a burqa ban, and the burqa ban has to be respected. But the police is not eager to intervene because they are afraid of the riots. That's why we are offering to every citizens who is spotting a burqa and who is telling this to the police a reward of 250 euros," Dewinter said.

Dewinter's proposal came after tensions rose last week between protesters and the police in a popular suburb of the European capital, when a Muslim woman was arrested for refusing to remove her face veil, or niqab.

Belgium and France both banned the wearing of full veils in public last year.

Dewinter also said he wanted a Europe-wide burqa ban.

"We live in a free society. We live in a society where men and women are equal, and Islam has to respect that. So there has to be a burqa ban, and not only in this country but in the whole of Europe I think, because the burqa is the weapon of the radical Islam against the West," Dewinter said.

Outside Brussels' central mosque, people had mixed reaction to the burqa bounty idea.

"For me, it's not my role to denounce people like that and especially to earn money like that. I prefer to work and earn decent money and not denounce anyone," said shop assistant manager Tharcisse Mulumba.

"Everyone can do whatever they want when it come to religious freedom and freedom of speech. Everyone can say whatever they want. This is freedom of speech. He is allowed to say whatever he wants. And these women can wear it, I don't mind. Everyone can do whatever they want. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, I think both need to be respected. There you are," schoolteacher Mrs. El Talb told Reuters.

Humorist Ramzi Zerqane came up with a counter-proposal.

"I find this proposal stupid. But Filip Dewinter is known for making only stupid proposals. The only way I can react is by giving 2,000 euros to the one who put a burqa on Filip Dewinter. Because we just don't need people like him," Zerqane joked.

Women in Belgium risk a maximum fine of 150 euros if they wear a full face veil in public.

A spokeswoman for Belgium's federal police said the legality of the bounty was a question for the judiciary, but if someone felt insulted by it they could file a complaint with the police.

Police in Belgium are investigating last week's riots and arrested 13 members of the Islamist group Sharia4Belgium on Sunday (June 3), the police spokesman said.

Sharia4Belgium was not immediately available to comment.