Elham Asaad Buaras
Thousands of Muslim women marched in the capital of Austria against the coalition Government plans to ban full-face veils (niqab) in public.
The ban is part of a package of changes hammered out by the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) to avert the collapse of their coalition Government and the rise of the far-right Freedom Party ahead of parliamentary elections next year.
Sebastian Kurz, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration and ÖVP MP went a step further and appealed for a ban on headscarves (hijab) for civil servants.
The protestors took part in the rally on February 4 calling for the ban to be abandoned.
The women marched under the slogan ‘My body – My right of self-determination!’ with many carrying placards declared that wearing a veil is a personal choice.
The plan is to introduce the ban on the niqab in public places within 18 months.
France passed a similar ban more than six years ago, and last month German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on the full face veil.
President of Muslim rights advocacy group IGGiÖ, Ibrahim Olgun, criticised the proposed ban, saying that it would “pull the rug” from under efforts to create a functioning relationship between the Government and the Muslim community.
Other new policy goals they have agreed include expanding Austria’s CCTV network and a compulsory “integration year” for asylum seekers, during which they would have to commit themselves to learning German and working for a charitable organisation.
Police officers and court officials are also banned from wearing headscarves in order to appear “ideologically and religiously neutral’, the coalition agreement states.
The document stated: “Those who are not prepared to accept Enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society.”