Denmark fines niqab wearer after assault
A Muslim woman has become the first person in Denmark to be charged for wearing a full-face veil in public, after a ban came into effect last week.
The woman, 28, was charged by the police after an argument with another woman who ripped her niqab off at a shopping centre in Horsholm, north of Copenhagen.
She was then fined when she refused to take off her face covering, which she had replaced by the time the police arrived.
The legislation does not mention burkas and niqabs and instead says “anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine”.
The ban also targets other items that hide the face such as balaclavas, masks and false beards.
It was reported that the argument occurred when the other woman tried to remove the “criminal’s” veil.
“During the fight, her niqab came off, but by the time we arrived she had put it back on again,” Danish police spokesman David Borchersen told the media.
Security cameras showed the woman had intentionally pulled off the veil but it was incidental to the fight, the police said.
Both women were charged with violating the peace and while one was charged with breaching the full-face veil law.
She was given a US$155 fine for exercising her religious beliefs by wearing the niqab, a face veil that leaves the area around the eyes clear. A burqa covers a person’s entire face.
Last Wednesday protesters demonstrated against the law with women in traditional Muslim burqas and veils standing alongside protesters in makeshift coverings.
Muslim women have said they would not obey the law, which carries a 10,000 kroner (US$1,500) charge for repeat offenders.
Following the Danish vote in May, Amnesty International’s Gauri van Gulik said: “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. If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly.”
Human Rights Watch called the law “discriminatory” and the “latest in a harmful trend”.
The European Court of Human Rights upheld a similar ban in Belgium in a 2017 ruling that communal harmony trumped the right to religious expression.
Full or partial face-covering bans are in place in France, Austria, Bulgaria and the state of Bavaria in southern Germany.
France was the first European country to ban the veil in public places in 2011.
Protests in Denmark last week. The niqab is under pressure in numerous Western European countries. Picture credit: YouTube