Vienna: A legislation that forbids full-face covering, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa, has come into effect in Austria.
The Austrian government has said the law, which says faces must be visible from the hairline to the chin, was about “protecting Austrian values”.
The enforcement of the ban comes ahead of a general election later this month, which could see gains by the far-right Freedom Party.
To avoid accusations of Islamophobia and racism, the law doesn’t just ban face veils worn by Muslim women. The government has been careful to use language that states the bans includes all face coverings, with certain exceptions.
Muslim groups in the country have condemned the law, saying just a small minority of Austrian Muslims wear full-face veils. The law also places restrictions on the use of medical face masks and clown makeup, a report in The Express Tribune said.
Popularly known as the “Burqa Ban”, the law is mostly seen as a move directed at the dress worn by some ultra-conservative Muslim women.
However just 150 women wear the full burka in Austria, that’s 0.03% of the Austrian Muslim population and 0.002% of the entire population. Tourism officials have expressed fears that the measures will also deter visitors from the Gulf.
Under the new law, devout Muslim women wearing the full-face and body veil in public will be fined 150 euros (180 USD) on the spot.
France and Belgium introduced a burka ban in 2011 while a similar measure is currently going through the Dutch parliament.