The municipal council in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Bourgas voted on June 1 to ban the wearing in public of clothing such as the burqa that covers the face.
In the 51-member council, 34 councillors voted in favour of the ban, nine abstained and one voted against.
As has happened in other Bulgarian municipalities, such as Pazardzhik and Stara Zagora, where the wearing of the burqa in public has been banned, the proposal was tabled by a constituent party of the nationalist Patriotic Front, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB).
The NFSB is a minority party in the council, with just four councillors. The largest group in the council is Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB, which has 29 seats on the council.
NFSB councillor Angel Bozhidarov said that the ban would not hinder tourism in Bourgas, the second-largest of Bulgaria’s Black Sea cities.
“What shall we do when it’s an Arab sheikh with his wife, will we impose a fine? Yes, we will fine her. The laws of the Republic of Bulgaria apply to all citizens worldwide. As regards losing tourism, I have lived in the city for 56 years, and I have not yet seen a crowd of sheikhs,” Bozhidarov said.
Sherafet Mehmed, one of two councillors for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – a party that has a large Muslim support base – said that he was against the ban. In the municipality of Bourgas, Muslims professed traditional Islam and burqas were nowhere to be seen, he said.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) group, which with five councillors is the second-largest group, did not support the proposal to ban the burqa.
BSP councillors Nikolai Tishev and Evgeni Mosinov queried how the municipal administration would maintain control.
“We should be equivalent to Plovdiv, to Varna, to Sofia, and not to Pazardzhik,” the BSP councillors said. Recently, when a similar proposal was tabled in the Plovdiv municipal council, it was rejected.
Legislation has been tabled in the National Assembly by the Patriotic Front to ban the burqa in public places. This has been approved at committee stage.
(Photo: Hans Braxmeier)