One of the leading figures of the Flemish populist Vlaams Belang party, Filip Dewinter (pictured), announced that his anti-immigrants party will be offering a â¬250 reward to anyone who informs the police of women wearing burqas in public.
Dewinter stressed that the reward will "force the authorities" to implement the law on burqa prohibition regardless of the recent protests. He stressed that burqa is a "cloth prison for women" and reminded that Belgium has a law prohibiting wearing full-body covering burqas in public.
Dewinter continued that a ban in Belgium and France should be the first steps in a European wide ban of the burqa.
"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."
Spokesman of the Brussels metropolitan police said that policemen are implementing the law and added that the police was not informed of the reward offered by the Vlaams Belang. The law stipulates that burqa wearing is punishable by a maximum fine of â¬150.
(It seems odd that the Vlaams Belang party is offering a reward of â¬100 more than the maximum fine, which allows people to deliberately stage false situations where they can make an easy profit.)
Spokeswomen of the federal police said that legality of the reward is a question for the court and urged citizens who feel affected by these tips to inform the police.
The statement received a mixed reaction outside the central mosque in the Belgian capital. Schoolteacher Mrs El Talb told Reuters that religious freedom needed to be respected.
"Everyone can do whatever they want when it comes to religious freedom and freedom of speech. Everyone can say whatever they want. This is freedom of speech. He (Dewinter) 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."
Ramzi Zergane, jokingly, put forward 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 puts a burqa on Filip Dewinter because we just don't need people like him."
Last week, protests broke out in Brussels after a woman was detained for wearing a burqa. Vlaams Belang, whose xenophobic policies resemble those of Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, used the opportunity to promote their anti-immigrant views.
"Vlaams Belang to reward tipping off burqa offenders" New Europe June 6, 2012
Alfred Joyner, "Belgium: Burqa Bounty of £200 Offered by Far-Right Politician Filip Dewinter" International Business Times June 6, 2012
"Far-right party offers to pay bounty to anyone who reports a veiled woman" Irish Times June , 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today