Backing the controversial French legislation that seeks to ban the Islamic hijab and other religious symbols from schools, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Dawael on Saturday called for a similar law in Belgium.

"We should do the same thing about it in our country," Dawael said in a letter reprinted in Belgian newspapers.

Dawael's public backing comes amid growing criticism of the planned French legislation.

Decrying the move, an overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide have dubbed the law discriminatory.

Sikhs residing in France have also joined the chorus of protests, urging the French authorities to respect and protect their religious sentiments.

"We should do the same thing about it in our country"

Patrick Dawael
Deputy Prime Minister

But undeterred by the growing protests, Dawael, who is also the interior minister and close to Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, argued that banning religious symbols was a necessity.

"The government should remain neutral in all circumstances and be represented as such," the deputy prime minister said.

"That means no distinctive religious symbols or veils for police officers, judges, clerks or teachers at public schools," he said.