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Denmark passes law banning Islamic burqa and niqab head veils

Denmark has passed a law banning Islamic veils such as the niqab, which is worn here by a female protester in front of Russian Consulate in Istanbul on Feb. 22. (Ozan Kose/Getty Images)

Denmark is now one of several European countries that have banned garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the burqa and niqab, The Guardian reported.

What was the vote?

Danish lawmakers approved the law Thursday with a 75-30 vote with 74 absentees.

The law does not ban “headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap,” according to the report.

Countries with similar laws include Austria, France, and Belgium.

Government leaders have said the law is not aimed at specific religions. But such laws are often known as a “burqa ban” because it primarily impacts the dress worn by some Muslim women, the report states. Even so, few Muslim women in Denmark wear full-face veils.

Søren Pape Poulsen, Denmark’s justice minister, has said police officers will need to use common sense in enforcing the law, which goes into effect on Aug. 1.

Under the law, people are allowed to cover their face if there is a legitimate purpose or circumstance such as cold weather or complying with motorcycle helmet laws, for example.

People who violate the law can face fines and a jail term of up to six months.

What did 'human rights' activists say?

The Guardian reported that human rights campaigners called the law a restriction on freedom of expression and religion.

“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe director. "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.”

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