Austria rules to ban Muslim full-face veils in public, ‘open society that requires open communication’
Countries across Europe area adapting to the influx of Muslims from Syria and war torn areas in the Middle East. One battle is over the full-face veils in public places and Austria’s ruling coalition has become the latest governmental body in Europe to ban Muslim the practice.
Similar bans to the one proposed in Austria have popped up in countries across Europe, called “anti-immigration” as the ban will apply to courts, schools, and other public areas.
As an explanation for the ban, the 35-page agreement penned by the coalition said that Austria should be an “open society that requires open communication.”
“Full-face veils in public places are the opposite of that and will be banned,” the agreement added.
Tourism groups have expressed concerns, but the impact on society will remain small as the female Muslim population is very small. The BBC estimates that only 150 women in Austria wear the full niqab, which conceals most of the face, but leaves the eyes clear.
It’s noteworthy that the Austrian ban will also apply to the burka, the most concealing Islamic veil.
“It is saddening. This is a setback for Austria, for our democracy and for our understanding of diversity,” Amani Abu Zahra, of the Islamic religion department at the University for Teacher Education of Christian Churches, told CNN.
Many experts are interpreting the banning of the veil in Austria as a symbolic gesture, meant to partially appease the anti-immigration Freedom party (FPÖ), which is currently leading in the polls.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for a ban on the full veil “wherever it’s legally possible” as similar bans against Islamic facial coverings have taken hold in recent years the Netherlands, France, and Belgium.
“The law is not directed against religious communities and is not repressive. We made a very good law for the safety of our children,” said Bulgarian parliament member Kasimir Velchev, after Bulgaria approved a ban similar to Austria’s in September of last year.
Tarafa Baghajati, chair of the Austrian Muslim Initiative, told CNN that he did not necessarily agree with the full-face veil, but that imposing a ban against it is “counterproductive.”