Denmark on Thursday joined the growing list of European countries that have banned face-covering clothing in public, including burqas, niqabs, and other Islamic veils.
The new law, which passed with a vote of 75 to 30 with 74 absentees, outlaws all face coverings except for those with a “recognizable purpose,” such as a scarf in cold weather or a motorcycle helmet, according to the Associated Press.
The Danish government said that the law is not aimed at any one particular religion and that it does not ban religious head coverings like yarmulkes and turbans, though Danish leaders have stated that the niqab and burqa do not belong in Denmark.
“Parliament has clearly stated that the burqa and niqab do not belong in Denmark. They are incompatible with Danish culture and the foundations on which Denmark is built,” said Danish People’s Party spokesman Martin Henriksen, according to The Local dk.
When asked whether it was in line with Danish values to outlaw clothing choices, Henriksen said it is “always Danish to protect Denmark.”
Henriksen said that while individual liberties must be protected in Denmark, Danes must also do what they can to combat an Islamic ideology that, in his view, would see many more rights than just clothing choices stripped away from the Danish people.
“Of course, we have individual freedoms we must protect. But some people use them to promote an ideology that, if they are successful, will mean many more lose their freedoms,” Henriksen said.
Denmark joins the European countries of Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Latvia, Kosovo, which have each enacted legislation that bans Islamic face veils to varying degrees for purposes of safety and security.
Amnesty International’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik decried the new law, claiming that it violates women’s rights.
“This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa,” Gulik said, according to The Guardian. “While 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”
“If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” Gulik added.
Denmark’s law will take effect August 1. Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen said that police officers will use “common sense” in enforcing the law and will not forcibly remove any article of clothing from offenders.
“I do not want police officers pulling items of clothing off people — burqas or otherwise. That is not going to happen,” Poulsen said, according to The Local. “If they live nearby, they will be asked to go home.”
If they do not live nearby, offenders will be asked to accompany officers to a police station where they will stay until a family member comes to take them home. First-time offenders will be fined $156. Repeat offenders can incur fines of up to $1,122.80 and a potential maximum jail sentence of six months.
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