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Panel in Belgium approves burqa ban

Panel in Belgium approves burqa ban
White Burqa-clad women pray during the Ramadan month at Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif (Tomb of the Exalted), Afghanistan in Balkh province on August 24, 2009. During the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset. Mazar-e-Sharif is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan and is located on north. UPI/Mohammad Kheirkhah | License Photo

BRUSSELS, April 1 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in Belgium say their country is on the road to becoming the first European nation to ban the full-body veils worn by Muslim women.

A key panel of the Belgium Federal Parliament unanimously voted in favor of a proposal to ban both the burqa and the niqab, two forms of the veil that cover the entire body and face, the EU Observer reported Thursday.

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If parliament approves the ban, women who wear the coverings could be fined and jailed for up to seven days.

Corinne De Permentier, speaker of the lower chamber, says a ban would liberate women from a burden and increase security.

Another lawmaker told the Observer that banning full body veils would "send a strong signal to Islamists."

Several districts in Belgium have already banned the burqa in public places.

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