Denmark has officially voted to ban the burqa

Denmark has officially voted to ban the burqa

The Danish government has passed a law to ban Islamic face veils, such as the niqab and burqa, in public spaces. The law was approved by a 75 to 30 vote this Thursday, after it was proposed by the centre-right governing coalition, and was backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People's Party. The law will take effect on August 1, and violating it will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156).

Commenting on the ban, integration rapporteur Martin Henriksen stated: "Official Denmark distances itself from political Islam, not only with words but also with action. In this way, the parliament makes it clear to everyone that the kind of extremism and brainwash, such as expressed by the burka and the niqab, is unacceptable in Denmark. It is incompatible with Danish culture."

However, the reaction to the ban has been more polarised elsewhere, with many civil rights activists condemning the legislation. Amnesty International's European Director Gauri van Gulik commented: "All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs."

He added: "This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa. If the intention of this law was to protect women's rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold."

A number of Danish politicians have also rallied against the vote. Liberal politician Eva Kjer Hansen stated that the ban was "out of proportion" and a "violation of fundamental rights," but was resigned to vote the same way as the party majority after she was  appointed minister of fisheries. The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten previously reported that only a tiny minority of three women regularly wear burqas in Denmark, and then claimed that, in contrast, the number of regular niqab wearers has been previously estimated at between 150 and 200.

A number of European countries, including France, Belgium, Latvia and Bulgaria have already decided to ban burqas and other veils, fining those guilty of wearing them in public anywhere from $127 to $235.