[Feature photo courtesy of Mads Claus Rasmussen/AFP/Getty Images]
On Thursday, May 31st, Denmark voted to ban both the burqa and niqab, with a new law set to be implemented at the beginning August.
The bill, presented to the Danish parliament by right-wing politicians and party members, received a majority vote of 75 votes in favor to 30 votes opposed. If a woman violates the bill, and decides to don the niqab or burqa in public, she will be fined with a fine of 1000 Danish kroner (~$157) the first time. By the fourth violation, the person will be fined 10,000 Danish kroner (~$1570).
The Danish People’s Party suggested earlier last week that a person who repetitively violates the ban should be imprisoned, and initially introduced a penalty of the violation that carried jail time. However, a later amendment of the bill removed the possibility of jail time for offenses against the bill.
The police are currently being trained on how to enforce the burqa ban on women who decide to wear the burqa or niqab after August 1st, 2018. Authorities say that the face veil will not be asked to be removed, but the person wearing it will receive a fine and be asked to go home immediately.
Social tension builds up
Danish Muslim Ayesha Haleem, a Danish niqabi, reportedly told the Danish Broadcast Company (DR) that she has worn it the past six years while living in the country.
She told DR that she was able to do this in “peace” without any negative reactions.
But this has changed in the past two months. She said she is experiencing more attention and expressed her concern about the misconceptions of her attire.
“Many people think that we are forced by men to wear niqab or burqa. This is completely mistaken. If I did not want to wear it, I wouldn’t,” Ayesha reportedly said.
She claimed in the interview that she also started experiencing abuse in public: “When I walk on the streets that have been times where people have stopped their cars and yelled at me, or even beeped their horns.”
The Niqab-Ban Movement in Europe
The first European country to ban the face veil was France in 2010. Several other countries have since joined the ban including Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy and now Denmark.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said in a speech that she wanted people to show their faces. She added, “The full covering is not permissible and should be banned.”
In the Netherlands, the niqab is not completely banned, but is forbidden in “specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen” or for security reasons such as airports and banks.
But non-European, majority Muslim countries like Egypt and Morocco have also drafted bills to ban niqab and burqa in public places for security reasons. Morocco banned all vendors from selling the burqa publicly in a move that was praised widely by European anti-niqab legislators. In Egypt, the legislation was raised after a university in Cairo banned staff from wearing the face veil.
Amnesty International calls Denmark’s niqab ban bill a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights.”
Amnesty International’s Europe Director Gauri van Gulik add that, “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.”