On May 16, 2017 Austria’s Parliament banned the wearing of full face coverings in public, such as veils or burkas to “restrict expressions of Muslim identity,” according to New York Times News.
The decision immediately drew criticism from rights advocates and from representatives of Austria’s Muslim community.
The Independent News reported that Austria’s President, Alexander Van der Bellen, has opposed the policy, “It is every woman’s right to always dress how she wants.”
An estimated 3,000 activists took part in a rally calling for the law to be abandoned, accusing the government of Islamophobia. Protestors said that the veil is a personal choice and claimed that the ban is both sexist and anti-Muslim, according to The Daily Mail.
Starting in October, the law will enforce the ban for those who cover their facial features and those who disobey will be punished with a fine, according to BBC News.
The New York Times News reported that The Austrian Bar Board, said the ban broke the values of constitutional democracy, along with “the fundamental rights of the freedom of conscience and the freedom of private life.”
The ban on the full face veil is designed to turn away pressure from the Anti-Immigration Freedom Party. However, only between 100 and 150 women are estimated to wear the full face veil in Austria, according to the Guardian News.
The Daily News reported that The House of the European Union in Vienna said, “It is the right of a woman to dress herself however she wants. That is my opinion about it. Besides that, not only Muslim women. Every woman can wear a headscarf.”
The Guardian News reported that the president of Austria’s Islamic Faith Community, Ibrahim Olgun, disagreed with the ban, saying that it would “pull the rug” from the efforts to create a united relationship between the government and the Muslim community.