Denmark proposes ban on Islamic full-face veil in public

Justice minister says the niqab and burqa are ‘incompatible with the values ​​in Danish society and disrespectful to the community’

Illustrative photo of Muslim women wearing burqas (AFP/Torsten Blackwood/File)
Illustrative photo of Muslim women wearing burqas (AFP/Torsten Blackwood/File)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The Danish government on Tuesday proposed a ban on Islamic full-face veils such as the niqab and burqa in public spaces, making it likely to become the next European country to restrict the wearing of the religious garment.

“It is incompatible with the values ​​in Danish society and disrespectful to the community to keep one’s face hidden when meeting each other in public spaces,” Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said in a statement.

“With a ban on covering the face, we are drawing a line in the sand and underlining that in Denmark we show each other trust and respect by meeting face to face,” he added.

The niqab is a full veil with a small slit for the eyes, while the burqa is a full veil that covers the head and body with a mesh screen over the eyes.

The proposal is to be assessed by non-governmental human rights organizations and possibly re-written to take their remarks into consideration.

The center-right government is expected to present a bill to parliament in the spring.

A supporter of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party displays a placard showing crossed out Niqabs during a demonstration against the German government’s asylum policy, organized by the AfD party in Berlin on November 7, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL)

With the support of the country’s second largest party, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, the proposed legislation is likely to be adopted.

A violation of the ban would lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($166, 134 euros).

Repeated violations would be fined up to 10,000 kroner.

The proposed ban says the “burqa, niqab, and balaclavas where only eyes and mouth are visible are examples of clothes that hide the face.”

But covering the face in a recognizable manner, such as wearing winter clothing, sports gear, and masks for festivities, are exempted.

It is not known how many women wear the niqab and burqa in Denmark.

“I don’t think there are many who wear the burqa here in Denmark. But if you do, you should be punished with a fine,” Poulsen told reporters, according to news agency Ritzau.

The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.

The European Court of Human Rights last year upheld a Belgian ban on wearing it in public.

France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places, with a law that took effect in 2011.

In 2013, Spain’s highest court annulled a ban on the full-face veil in public buildings that had been brought in three years earlier by the northeastern region of Catalonia.

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