In the most recent European attempt to prevent radical Islam’s spread, Spain’s Senate voted this past Wednesday in favor of prohibiting Muslim women from donning the burqa—the traditional Islamic veil which covers a woman’s entire body except her eyes.  New York Times columnist Raphael Minder suggests that the country’s sudden—and, some would say, unexpected—decision to follow fellow EU members like France and Belgium, was precipitated by upcoming regional elections in Catalonia later this year, in which immigration and Islam are two politically charged and contested issues:

Before the Spanish Senate’s vote, some of the country’s local authorities had already moved to introduce restrictions on the burqa. The issue was especially heated in the region of Catalonia, where the debate over Islam and immigration has become entangled in early campaigning ahead of regional elections later this year. The pending elections may have proved crucial in the Wednesday vote, as senators from the CiU, a Catalan party, surprisingly switched their earlier stance to vote in favor of a burqa ban.

While the senate has moved to accept the ban, however, the question of whether or not it is ultimately implemented is yet to be determined.  As Minder points out, the majority Socialist government is not in favor of an outright burqa ban; Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his party are expected to try to circumvent the Senate’s motion, opting instead for less restrictive policies.

Read the full New York Times article here.