Denmark joins other European countries in banning face veil
By Diane Cooke
A woman has become the first person in Denmark to be charged with wearing a full-face veil in public, after a ban came into effect last week.
The 28-year-old came to the police's attention when a scuffle broke out between her and another woman at the top of an escalator at a shopping centre north of Copenhagen.
She was fined when she refused to remove the veil. Those who break the law could be fined 1,000 kroner (£120).
Denmark joins several other European countries in banning garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab and burqa, in a move condemned by human rights campaigners as “neither necessary nor proportionate”.
In a 75-30 vote with 74 absentees, Danish lawmakers approved the law presented by the centre-right governing coalition. The government said it is not aimed at any religions and does not ban headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap.
But the law is popularly known as the “burqa ban” and is mostly seen as being directed at the dress worn by some Muslim women, although few Muslim women in Denmark wear full-face veils.
Danish national radio reported that people will still be allowed to cover their face in certain circumstances, such as a costume party or pulling up a scarf during cold weather. It will be up to police to decide if a person’s face is “too covered.”
When the bill was proposed earlier this year, Denmark’s Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen said covering one’s face was “disrespectful” to others and “incompatible with the values in Danish society.”
Last year the European court of human rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing full-face veils in public.
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places, in 2011. In 2013 Spain’s highest court annulled a similar ban brought in three years earlier by the region of Catalonia.