Photo Credit: The Sunday Express, UK
Since 2003, several European countries imposed a ban on wearing a burka in public and now the most recent among them is Denmark. The Danish parliament voted on Thursday for the law, proposed by the center-right government, by 75 votes to 30, with 74 abstentions. It comes into effect on August 1. Denmark's Muslims make up approximately 3.7% of the population and form the country's second largest religious community and largest minority religion.
The law, popularly known as the “burqa ban”, is mostly seen by critics as being directed at the dress worn by some Muslim women. The legislation allows people to cover their face when there is a “recognizable purpose” such as cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, for example using motorcycle helmets under Danish traffic rules. In other, “not recognizable” circumstances, those violating the law risk a fine of 1,000 kroner (£118, $250). Repeat offenders could be fined up to 10,000 kroner.
However, Denmark’s justice minister Soren Pape Poulsen said that it will be up to police officers to use their “common sense” when they see people violating the law and to decide if a person’s face is “too covered.”
Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe director, criticized the Danish decision:
“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs. This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa.
While some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion.
If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold.”
The problem is that many Muslim women didn’t have choice between wearing burqa and dressing regularly. Their religion imposed severe restrictions on women’s dressing and in general expressing any opinion. According to the new law in Denmark, 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.
On the other hand, Danish government is, through the ban, telling a particular group of religious women what they can or cannot wear and that is absolutely wrong because it can also strengthen Islamic extremists. This retreat could worsen tensions, embolden the country’s extremist nationalists, and push Muslim women and girls — who are already in a vulnerable state — deeper into fear and isolation. The CFI criticized the German ban two years ago.
The government said that the new law, which does not ban headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap, was not aimed at any religion but it certainly will affect Muslim women and their dress code.