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Austria face veil ban comes to effect

26th Oct 2017
Austria face veil ban comes to effect

© Michel Royon / Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

Elham Asaad Buaras


The full-face veils ban came into force in Austria on October 1. The law, commonly known as the ‘Burqa ban’ came into effect in advance of a general election on October 15, which could see the traditionally xenophobic far-right Freedom Party  (FPOe) make gains.


The laws are aimed at ‘ensuring the cohesion of society in an open society’ and anyone violating the rules could be hit with a €150 fine. A woman wearing the niqab was spotted and photographed being told to remove her veil in the town of Zell am See.


In a ruling announcing the ban, officials in Vienna said: “Acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria.”


However, human rights activists have denounced the law as “counterproductive”. Rights activist and spokeswoman for the Austrian Islamic Religious Authority, Carla Amina Baghajati, told The Muslim News the law will foster seclusion instead of the intended integration.


“I spoke to those very few women in Austria who cover their faces and they don’t at all feel ‘freed’. Quite in the opposite, they say that they were being patronised by a presumption that detests their way of dressing so much that it is assumed they could only be victims of somebody enforcing the veil on them – usually a husband.”


She continues, “Even if we took into account that there might exist such cases of men – who guarantees that these husbands let their wives get out of the house? Nobody could control that women do not get imprisoned in their homes? ”


Baghajati also suggested the ban is pandering to “patriarchal” far-right politics and is exclusively pushed by male politicians with no backing by women rights activists. “Quite the contrary, Muslim women have experienced solidarity, there is a general concern among the women’s lib movement that authoritarian policies are always hitting women’s rights – a global trend at the moment. And it’s very telling that far-right parties who as such are very patriarchal in their structure and mindset claim to ‘free Muslim women’,” she said.


The measures, similar to those in other EU countries, also apply to visitors even though large numbers of Arab tourists holiday in the Alpine country. The legislation was brought in by the outgoing centrist Government of Chancellor Christian Kern.


FPOe is expected come second or third and potentially enter a coalition with Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right in the elections. Kurz, 31, has managed to steal considerable numbers of voters from the FPOe, according to the latest polls. Experts believe this is in part due to him moving to the right on issues such as immigration.

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