Denmark passes law banning burqa and niqab

The burqa will be banned in public in Denmark from 1 August
The burqa will be banned in public in Denmark from 1 August

Denmark has banned garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa.

In a 75-30 vote with 74 absentees, Danish lawmakers today approved the law presented by the centre-right governing coalition.

The government says that it is not aimed at any religions and does not ban headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap.

However, the law is popularly known as the “Burqa Ban” and is mostly seen as being directed at the dress worn by some conservative Muslim women. Few Muslim women in Denmark wear full-face veils.

Justice Minister Soeren Pape Poulsen said that it would be up to police officers to use their “common sense” when they see people violating the law that enters into force from 1 August.

The law allows people to cover their face when there is a “recognisable purpose” like cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, such as using motorcycle helmets under Danish traffic rules.

First-time offenders risk a fine of 1,000 kroner (£118). Repeat offences could trigger fines of up to 10,000 kroner (£1,180) or a jail sentence of up to six months.

Anyone forcing a person to wear garments covering the face by using force or threats can be fined or face up to two years in prison.

Austria, France and Belgium have similar laws.

The justice ministry and the police now will write more detailed guidelines.

Those “should be very concrete” as to what will be banned, said Bjoern Elmquist, a lawyer who has been a prominent opponent of the law.

If it turns out to focus only on women in the niqab or burqa, the leglislation could amount to discrimination against a minority group and hence be against the law, Louise Holck of the Danish Institute for Human Rights told TV2 television.