The Austrian Parliament, on Tuesday, approved legislation to ban full-face veil in public places, The New York Times reported.
The new law, to be implemented from October this year, allows authorities to slap a fine of around US$167 to women who do ‘niqab’ in public places including universities, public transportation or courthouses.
According to a state secretary in the office of Chancellor Christian Kern, Muna Duzdar, the move comes as a bid to encourage the integration of immigrants into the Austrian society. The legislation includes mandatory integration courses, German-language lessons and requires asylum seekers to do unpaid work in the time their claims are processed. Migrants who fail to meet the requirements can lose their welfare benefits.
The law has raised concerns from all quarters. A member of Austria’s Muslim community termed the new law a breach of privacy and an irresponsible “intervention in religious freedom and the freedom of expression.”
Representing the legal community, Austria Bar Board said the constitutional democracy was tainted by the ban, adding that “the fundamental rights of the freedom of conscience and the freedom of private life.”
In January, the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, Sebastian, had asked for a ban on public servants, including school teachers, from wearing the Islamic headscarf. The debate on the issue had been going on since.
Earlier in March, the 73-year-old President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen expressed his views in a talk at a local school. “It is every woman’s right to always dress how she wants, that is my opinion on the matter,” he said.