Stockholm – Lawmakers in Denmark on Thursday approved a ban on the use of full-face veils in public spaces in what is being called a “burqa ban.”
The ban – carried by a 75-30 vote in the Danish parliament – is due to enter into force on August 1.
Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen welcomed the outcome, and said he was confident the ban would be respected, he told public broadcaster DR.
It would include full-face veils like the niqab, balaclavas, face-covering ski masks, face masks and fake beards, but not protective masks.
Other exceptions include winter clothing, such as scarves, and costumes and masks worn for carnival or Halloween.
A first-time offender could risk a fine of 1,000 kroner (165 dollars).
Repeat offences would result in a higher fine. A fourth offence and any further violations would be met with a fine of 10,000 kroner, the bill said.
A French-Algerian businessman, Rachid Nekkaz, has recently said he would offer to pay for fines issued in Denmark as he has done in other countries with similar bans.
Poulsen said he was not too concerned over this, the DR report said.
The justice minister underlined that police would be given instructions how to handle possible incidents and act “reasonably” and said it would apply “for all sorts of face-covering clothes.”
Parties have been divided over the bill, including in the ruling centre-right minority coalition.
The Liberal Alliance, one of two junior parties in the three-party coalition, allowed its lawmakers to vote freely but stipulated that its cabinet members had to vote for the bill.
Joachim B Olsen, one of the Liberal Alliance lawmakers who voted against the ban, said he was not swayed by claims that a ban could help women forced to wear face-covering clothing.
The bill was supported by the Social Democrats, the main opposition party, although one of its lawmakers voted against it.
The Danish People’s Party, which backs the coalition, also voted in favour. It had proposed a similar ban in 2009.
“It has taken almost 10 years to convince a majority in parliament that we should ban the burqa and niqab in public spaces, now it has passed,” said Martin Henriksen of the populist party.
Some countries in Europe, including Austria, Belgium and France, have previously introduced restrictions on wearing full-face veils in public spaces.
A 2010 report estimated that up to 200 women in Denmark, a country of 5.7 million, used full-face veils.
“No, I don’t want to take it off,” said Pakistani national Ayesha Haleem, who wears a niqab. “If I don’t wear this, I feel like I’m wearing nothing,” the mother of two told DR.
She would rather “stay at home,” she added. “I am not going to throw my faith and leave my religious thinking and thoughts because of these laws.”
Article sourced from IOL
Photo Credit- AP