Denmark is expected to become the next European country to restrict full-face coverings, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa, a few days after Austria took a similar decision.
Most parties in the Danish parliament backed some sort of ban on facial coverings on Friday.
The three-party centre-right minority government, its ally the Danish People’s Party and the main opposition Social Democrats have all said they are in favour of a ban, though they are still discussing how the ban should be designed and enforced.
Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, of Denmark’s Liberal Party that leads a centre-right governing coalition, said the law proposal was not aimed at any religion.
“This is not a ban on religious clothing, this is a ban on masking,” he said. Mr Ellemann-Jensen also said it was not a ban on scarfs, turbans or the kippa, the traditional Jewish skull cap.
The move is mostly seen as directed at the dress worn by Muslim women although few Muslim women in Denmark wear full-face veils. An estimated 200 women wear facial coverings in the country.
“There will come a masking ban in Denmark. That’s how it is,” Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Facebook.
His party, the Liberal Alliance, had previously been one of the staunchest opponents of a ban, saying it limited people’s ability to freely choose their attire, but has now aligned its stance with that of the other coalition parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals.
“So if it is practically possible to have such a ban without betraying ourselves or our own values, then the Liberal Alliance will vote for it,” Mr Samuelsen said.
France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have all imposed some restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils in public places.
Full and partial face veils such as burqas and niqabs divide opinion across Europe, setting advocates of religious freedom against secularists and those who argue that such garments are culturally alien or a symbol of the oppression of women.