Austria proposes ban on full-face coverings in public places

The full-face veil will be banned in public spaces' Christian Kern said after ministers signed off on the new programme of policies. Stock image

The prohibition will apply to the niqab and burqa, the full-face or face-and-body coverings worn by some Muslim women.

The president of Austria's Islamic Community, Ibrahim Olgun, criticised the proposed ban, saying it would "pull the rug" under efforts to create a good working relationship between the government and the Muslim community.

Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz, whose center-right People's Party had pushed senior coalition partner the Social Democratic Party for the ban, said that by prohibiting "anti-social symbols" like burqas, the country would be able to better integrate migrants.

Various Burka bans have also been approved by MPs in Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Switzerland. "Full-body veils in public spaces stand against that and will therefore be prohibited".

The document says that Austria was introducing the reforms to ensure the "state presents itself in a world-open and religiously neutral manner", adding that civil servants in uniform as well as judges and prosecutors should show religious neutrality in the way they dress in public, effectively banning them from wearing Islamic headscarves.

The centrist coalition almost collapsed last week amid crisis negotiations over the government's future direction. "We are committed to an open society, which also presupposes open communication".

National bans are now being debated by politicians in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland; German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last month that the full-face veil should be banned in public "wherever it is legally possible".

Women in Austria will no longer be allowed to wear the full-face veil in public spaces, the country's ruling coalition has decided.

It's also being suggested that migrants will need to sign an "integration contract" and a "statement of values" upon arrival into the country with "those who are not prepared to accept Enlightenment values having to leave" their country 'and society'.

France was the first European country to ban full-face veils six years ago.

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