BRUSSELS, Belgium: A
head scarf ban for municipal counter clerks in the
northern port city of Antwerp has raised protest from
Muslims and women activists, officials said Tuesday.
The city council
decided late Monday that civil servants dealing directly
with the public should not wear visible religious
symbols like a Muslim head scarf or a Christian cross.
Some 150 mostly Muslim women protested the decision late
Monday and the organizers said they were considering
Antwerp has been a
stronghold of the far-right Flemish Interest party, but
it was defeated in local elections last October by the
socialists, who had run a campaign stressing the
multicultural makeup of Belgium's second-largest city.
Opponents of the ban
were disappointed that the coalition of socialists,
liberals and Christian democrats who run the city
council had outlawed head scarves for frontdesk staff.
"It was a surprise, especially
after a campaign like that," said Sophie De
Graeve of the women's rights group VOK.
Muslim head coverings
have become a touchy issue in Europe since France banned
the wearing of head scarves in public schools in 2004.