Denmark becomes latest European country to ban face veils in public
'I won't be able to go to school, go to work,' says one young woman who wears the niqab
Denmark has banned the wearing of face veils in public, joining France and other parts of Europe in outlawing the burqa and the niqab worn by some Muslim women.
Parliament voted on Thursday for the law proposed by the centre-right government. Opponents say the ban, which comes into effect on Aug. 1, infringes on women's right to dress as they choose.
The government says that the ban is not aimed at any particular religions, and it does not include headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap. But the law, popularly known as the "Burqa Ban," and is mostly seen as being directed at the dress worn by some conservative Muslim women.
Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said police would not order offenders to remove their veils, but would fine them and tell them to go home.
The law allows people to cover their faces when there is a "recognizable purpose" like cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, such as using motorcycle helmets under Danish traffic rules.
Fines will range from 1,000 Danish crowns ($203 Cdn) for a first offence to 10,000 crowns for the fourth violation.
France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have all imposed some restrictions on full-face veils in public places.
When the bill was proposed in February, Justice Minister Pape Poulsen, head of the conservative party in a government backed by the nationalist Danish People's Party, said that it is "incompatible with the values " of Danish society to keep one's face hidden when meeting in public.
Zainab Ibn Hssain, who lives in Copenhagen and has been wearing the niqab for the last year, told Reuters: "It's not nice. It will mean that I won't be able to go to school, go to work or go out with my family.
"But I won't take my niqab off so I have to find another solution," the 20 year-old added.
Human rights group Amnesty International called the ban "a discriminatory violation of women's rights."
"All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs," it said.
Ibn Hssain rejected suggestions that wearing the veil symbolized the rejection of Danish values or oppression of women.
"It has nothing to do with integration or that we're oppressed. For me it is a war on Islam," she said.
The justice ministry and the police now will write more detailed guidelines on how to enforce the law.
If it turns out to focus only on women in the niqab or burqa, it could amount to discrimination against a minority group and hence be against the law, said Louise Holck of the Danish Institute for Human Rights in an interview with TV2 television.
With files from The Associated Press