News and Commentary

Denmark Bans The Burqa

Demark is the latest European country to vote to ban the burqa.

The Danish legislature voted Wednesday to join France, Germany, Belgium, and Austria, in criminalizing Islamic full-face veils and other face-coverings. The vote wasn’t even close: the law passed 75 votes to 30 votes.

According to the new rule, which takes effect August 1st, anyone caught wearing a burqa, niqab, or any veil or costume that covers the face will be fined up to 1,000 kroner (or around $150). Repeat offenders — those caught more than once wearing full-face coverings in public spaces — can earn fines up to 10,000 kroner (or around $1,000).

The Danish government insists that the ban isn’t sexist or targeted at a single religion, though Islam is the only major world religion that has sects that demand women be fully covered when they venture outside of their personal dwelling. To make the law “fair,” the government added that anyone caught wearing a face mask, balaclava, or even a false beard could face the same punishment.

Critics called the ban an attack on the freedom of religion in an increasingly secular Europe, and Amnesty International attempted to intervene to stop what they are calling a “blanket ban” on religious attire.

“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,” Amnesty’s European director said in a statement.

Supporters of the law — a coalition which includes most of the country’s conservatives — say that the law targets an ideology that would subjugate women, and if allowed to take root in Danish society, could mean “many others would lose their right to freedom.”

Danish officials did admit that they do not know how many women in the country actually wear the full-face veil, nor whether those women choose to wear the veil, or have had the veil forced upon them.

Denmark, however, is not alone in wanting to ban the burqa. Similar bans exist in France, Belgium, Austria, and Germany, and the secular European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly upheld bans on full face veils.

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