Bulgarian town bans niqab

1st Jul 2016

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Bulgarian town has banned the wearing of the niqab (full face veil) in public including while driving. Councillors in Pazardzhik home to a Roma Muslim minority voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ban in April in all administrative buildings, schools, shops and on the street.

The Council justified the measure on security grounds insisting the niqab impedes identification. Fines of 300 leva (£114) can be levied, rising to 1,000 leva for repeat offenders.

Bulgaria’s centuries-old Muslim community, dating back to conversions during Ottoman times, makes up around 13 per cent of the 7.4-million population of mainly Orthodox Christians.

Muslim women in Bulgaria generally wear just a simple scarf to cover their hair, but recently there has been a rise in the number of women in Pazardzhik wearing the niqab. The junior partner in Bulgaria’s ruling coalition, the nationalist Patriotic Front, recently proposed imposing a nationwide ban on the full-face veil with fines of between 200 and 1,500 leva.

The bill which is yet to be put to vote in the legislature also proposes jail sentences of up to three years and fines of up to 5,000 leva for anyone who incites others to wear a niqab.

Belgium, France and Latvia have already banned the niqab.

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