Vienna, Austria: Effective Sunday, October 1, new restrictions come into force in Austria banning the wearing of the full Islamic veil known as burqa and other items concealing the face in public places and buildings. The government says exemptions will apply “under certain conditions” which include items like clown disguises “at cultural events”, work wear such as medical masks, and scarves in cold weather, the government says.
The restrictions are aimed at “ensuring the cohesion of society in an open society”, it says.
Violations will be punished with a fine of up to 150 euros (S$240.64).
“Acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria,” Vienna says.
The measures, similar to those in other European Union countries, also apply to visitors, even though large numbers of Arab tourists holiday in the Alpine country.
The legislation was brought in by the outgoing centrist government of Chancellor Christian Kern.
Elections on Oct 15 are expected to see the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) come second or third and potentially enter a coalition with Mr Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right.
Photo: women in burqa
Mr Kurz, who is only 31, has managed to steal considerable numbers of voters from the FPOe, polls show, experts say in part due to him moving to the right on issues such as immigration.
“The immigration seen in recent years is changing out country not in a positive but in a negative way,” Mr Kurz told German television in an interview broadcast this week.
Other measures to apply from Oct 1 include immigrants signing an “integration contract” and compulsory courses in the German language and “values”.
Note that the burqa is a full face cover. It is not the more commonly seen hijab, which is just a veil covering the hair.
France was the first European country to outlaw face veils in 2011. Belgium, Bulgaria and Switzerland followed suit, while the Netherlands has prohibited the use of veils in public offices. Germany imposed a limited ban on face coverings in April. It applies to only public officials and soldiers on duty.