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Denmark bans Islamic full-face veil in public spaces

Women wearing niqab are pictured in front of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. The Danish parliament on Thursday, May 31, passed a law banning the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces, becoming the latest European country to do so. (AFP)

Denmark on Thursday became the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces in a move slammed by human rights campaigners as “a violation of women’s rights”. “Anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine,” says the law, which was passed by 75 votes to 30 in the Danish parliament.

Presented by the centre-right government, the legislation was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party.

The new rule will take effect on Aug 1. Wearing a burqa, which covers a person’s entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros). The ban also targets other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas and false beards.

Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner. 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,” Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen was quoted as saying by Ritzau news agency in February. Supporters argue the ban enables better integration of Muslim immigrants into Danish society. But Amnesty International condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights”, especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.

“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,” the organisation’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement following the vote. (AFP)

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