Denmark bans burqas and niqabs in public

Denmark has become the latest European country to ban the Islamic burqa and niqab by outlawing the wearing of face veils in public.

A majority of lawmakers voted in favour of the ban as Muslim women wearing conservative religious clothing looked on.

The law was proposed by the centre-right government which argued face veils were contrary to Danish values – but it insists the ban doesn’t target religious groups.

First-time offenders of the so-called burqa ban – which goes into effect on August 1 – will be fined 1,000 Danish crowns (about £115).

The fine increases to 10,000 crowns (£11,500) after a fourth violation.

Denmark is the fifth European country to pass a complete ‘burqa ban’ in public, joining Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and France, which in 2001 became the first to do so.

Denmark’s law also applies to face coverings such as false beards and masks.

It is estimated that only about 200 women in Denmark wear the niqab or burqa.

The niqab is a veil that covers a woman’s entire face except the eyes, while the one-piece burqa, which covers a woman’s body and entire face, has a transparent veil.

Human rights group Amnesty International called the ban "a discriminatory violation of women’s rights".

An earlier proposal that allowed prison sentences as punishment had been previously removed.

The Danish People’s Party failed in its attempt this week to amend the legislation to include prison sentences for offenders.

Other European countries or individual regions have full or partial bans.

In the Netherlands, face veils are banned in some public places, including schools, hospitals and public transport. A similar law is in effect in the German state of Bavaria.

The Swiss canton of Tessin has outlawed the religious clothing entirely in public.

Danish lawmakers voted 75-30 on Thursday to pass the legislation proposed by the country’s three-party centre-right coalition –

The Liberal, Conservative and Danish People’s parties all voted in favour of the law, along with the opposition Social Democrats except for one lone MP, Mette Gjerskov, The Local reported.

An additional 74 members of parliament abstained from the vote.

Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen, head of the conservative party in a government backed by the nationalist Danish People’s Party, said police would not order offenders to remove their veils, but would fine them and tell them to go home.

He said when the bill was proposed in February: "It is incompatible with the values of the Danish society or the respect for the community to keep the face hidden when meeting each other in the public space."

Zainab Ibn Hssain, who lives in Copenhagen and has been wearing the niqab for the last year, told Reuters: "It’s not nice. It will mean that I won’t be able to go to school, go to work or go out with my family."

The 20-year-old added: "But I won’t take my niqab off so I have to find another solution.

Amnesty International’s Europe Director Gauri van Gulik said: “All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs.

"This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa.

“Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion.

“If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold.”

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