The town council of Lérida in northern Spain has become the first in that country to ban the veil. In a motion passed Friday, the council voted to prohibit the "use of the veil and other clothes and accessories which cover the face and prevent identification in buildings and installations of the town hall".
About 20 per cent of the population of the Catalan town are foreign-born; of those, about a third are Maghrabis from North Africa, mainly Morocco.
The veil has led to debate in many European countries: Belgian deputies last month backed a draft law banning the garment in all public places, including on the streets, while France's cabinet has approved a draft law to ban the full-face veil from public spaces. The bill goes before the French parliament in July.
There are reasonable "civic" grounds for asking Muslims not to wear the full-face veil when teaching or engaged in jobs where it is seeing the face is important.
But the grounds cited by the the mayor of Lérida are ideological.
"It's a question of rights and liberties, a question of the right to equality of men and women", said Àngel Ros. "Today we did not debate religious or even cultural matters".
(Spanish-speakers can watch an interview with him here.)
This decision, like the French one, assumes that that the burka somehow denigrates women. There is no evidence for that. Like those anticlerical governments which closed convents on the grounds that nuns needed liberating, the Spanish town council of Lerida has demonstrated ignorance and secularist bias.