Saturday 20 July 2019

Austrian police force Muslims to remove burkas

Those who defy the ban could face a fine of €150. Stock Photo.
Those who defy the ban could face a fine of €150. Stock Photo.

Helen Nianias

Muslim women in Austria were forced by police to remove their facial coverings yesterday as an anti-burka law came into effect.

The so-called ‘burka ban’ prohibits facial coverings, including niqabs and burkas, and also places restrictions on surgical masks, ski masks and clown make-up worn in public.

Yesterday, a woman wearing a niqab facial veil, which leaves only the eyes uncovered, was seen being told to remove her veil by two police officers in Zell am See, a town south of Saltzburg.

Those who defy the ban could face a fine of €150.

While the rule applies to some non-religious facial coverings, it is mostly perceived to be directed at the modest clothes worn by a minority of Muslim women.

Full veils remain rare in Austria, despite the surge of migrants and refugees into Europe in 2015, but they have become a target for right-wing groups and political parties. The measures, similar to those in other EU countries such as France, also apply to visitors, even though large numbers of Arab tourists holiday in the Alpine country.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has previously indicated her support for a similar law in Germany, saying: “Our law takes precedence over codes of honour, tribal or family rules, and over sharia law.”

Some Muslim groups in Austria have criticised the ban. Carla Amina Bhagajati, of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria, said the “handful” of fully veiled women she knows of in Vienna “now are criminalised and restricted to their homes”.

The legislation was brought in by the outgoing centrist government of Chancellor Christian Kern.

“Acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria,” the government said.

However, the strong support for the new law could point towards political upheaval in Austria’s general election on October 15.

Political parties campaigning on anti-migrant messages are predicted to win and form a coalition government. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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