Austria agrees to ban the niqab in public places

The Austrian government has agreed to ban the niqab in public places as part of a “reform programme” aimed at “countering the rise of far-right extremism” in the country.

The agreement was made between the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the centrist People’s party as Chancellor Christian Kern attempts to regain the political initiative from the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) ahead of 2018’s parliamentary election.

Mr Kern said: “The full-face veil will be banned in public spaces,” adding that the ban will be implemented over the next 18 months. 

The full 35-page statement included increased security measures and forcing refugees to sign a “statement of values” and an “integration contract”.

According to the statement, “Those who are not prepared to accept Enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society”.

The text published on Monday also stated: “We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication. Full-body veils in public spaces stand against that and will therefore be prohibited”.

The term used would apply to the niqab and burqa, which cover all or most of women’s face.

The agreement also bans judges, magistrates, police officers and public prosecutors from wearing the hijab in the interest of appearing “ideologically and religiously neutral”.

In 2004, France passed an act that made it the first European country to ban the niqab and burqa in public places.

In December 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on the niqab as she launched her re-election campaign for a fourth term in office.

Various burqa bans have also been approved by parliamentarians in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Belgium.

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