Barcelona to ban Islamic veils in some public spaces

A woman wearing an Islamic veil in Lleida The Catalan town of Lleida announced a ban on Islamic veils last month

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Barcelona has become the first large Spanish city to announce a ban on the wearing of full Islamic face-veils in some public spaces.

The ban was designed to include any head-wear that hindered identification, officials said.

At least two towns in Catalonia, the region that includes Barcelona, have already announced bans.

Belgium and France have both recently taken steps towards restricting the use of full veils in public.

Barcelona's city council said the ban would be largely symbolic, since it was uncommon to see women in the city wearing the full veil.

"Barcelona will forbid the use of the burqa, niqab and any other item which hinders personal identification in any of the city's public installations," a council statement said.

The ban would cover public spaces such as municipal offices, public markets and libraries - but not the streets.

The mayor of Barcelona, Jordi Hereu, said the measure was aimed purely at ensuring people could be identified, and would therefore include balaclavas, motorbike helmets and ski masks.

"In no way does it target religious belief," he said.

The ban is scheduled to take effect in Barcelona after the summer.

The Conservative Popular Party (PP) called for the ban to be extended to all public places, including on the street.

Full veils have already been banned in public spaces in the Catalan towns of Lleida and El Vendrell.

Others are reported to be considering similar measures.

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