Face value: Denmark bans burqas

June 1, 2018

On May 31, Denmark banned the burqa—joining Belgium, France, and the Netherlands in outlawing the head-to-toe veil worn in parts of the Muslim world. Turkey also bars burqas and niqabs, at least in some places. The perceived problem with the veil is that it hides a woman’s identity and poses a security threat.

The legislature, called the People’s Assembly or Folketing, passed the so-called “burqa ban” in a 75-30 vote, according to The Guardian. The government said it is not aimed at any specific religion and does not ban headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap.

Few Muslim women in Denmark wear full-face veils, based on a report by The Telegraph UK.  Indeed, in Europe, only a tiny fraction of Muslims choose to wear it—an estimated 30 women in Belgium, 400 in France, and 200 in the Netherlands; while it is mandated in many Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

Denmark’s Justic Minister, Søren Pape Poulsen, said police officers would be able to use their own discretion when they see people violating the law, which comes effective on August 1.

Those deemed to be in violation would be subject to a fine of about $10. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $95 or jailed for up to six months.

In addition, The Telegraph reported, the new law would allow people to cover their face when there is a “recognizable purpose” such as cold weather.

Following news of the vote, Amnesty International’s Europe Director Gauri van Gulik issued the following statement: “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.

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

Research contact: @h_alexander

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