The law prohibiting Muslim women from using “niqabs” or “burqas” comes into play and forces immigrant children living in the “ghettos” to take classes on Danish traditions under threat of their parents losing social benefits.
The approved law
The law proposed by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen was approved at the end of May and came into force, on Wednesday, with 75 votes in favor, 30 against and still 74 abstentions. In addition to the “burqas” and “niqabs”, false beards, masks, and other devices or costumes covering the face are also prohibited.
Only in cases where there is a “dignified purpose” can the face be covered, as, for example, in the winter months to protect from the cold on the streets, and it will be up to the police to evaluate each case.
The fines start at a thousand Danish crowns (equivalent to approximately 100 euros) and gradually get worse, and anyone who insists on disobeying the law may end up paying up to 100,000 crowns (approximately 1300 euros).
A last-minute attempt by the nationalist party (Dansk Folkeparti) to impose prison sentences was not materialized, even though it is the second largest parliamentary force.
It is worth noting that this party finally sees one of its objectives fulfilled, since they defend the ban on wearing the Islamic veil on Danish soil since 2009.
“All women should be free to wear what they want and wear clothes that express their identity or belief, and this prohibition will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqabs or burqas,” said the European director of Amnesty International, Gauri van Gulik.
“While some specific restrictions on wearing full veils for public security purposes may be legitimate, this general prohibition is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion,” he added.
The term dates back to the sixteenth century and was used in Venice to describe certain areas of the city in which Jews lived. It gained an even more negative connotation during the twentieth century.
In 21st century Denmark, the term has been used by the government, since 2010, to officially classify 25 residential urban neighbourhoods where the majority of the population comes from non-Western (many of them Muslim) countries and where, among other characteristics, unemployment exceeds 40 %. In the Prime Minister New Year’s speech, he called these neighbourhoods “parallel societies” and announced a plan to end the “ghettos“, where in March he pointed to fulfil that objective until 2030.
Denmark’s difficulties in integrating its immigrants intensified in 2015, since the beginning of the crisis of migrants and refugees in Europe, which brought more people from the Middle East and North Africa. According to official data from 2017, the percentage of non-Western immigrants in the ghettos reaches 66.5% and they represent 8.7% of the country’s 5.7 million inhabitants.
One measure of the prime minister’s plan is to force the children of the “ghettos” to 25 hours a week, of public education which includes classes on “Danish values” under the penalty of parental loss of social benefits. Another of the government’s proposals is to subject the inhabitants of the ghettos to double punishment, increasing their penalties for crimes such as vandalism or robbery.
The dissatisfaction of the Muslim population
“I’m not going to take my niqab. If I have to do it that it’s because it’s my choice,” said Sabina, a 21-year-old Muslim woman who is defying the law.
At her side will be, 20 years old, Meryem. “I believe we have to integrate into society,” she said. “But I do not think using niqab means we can not get involved in Danish values,” added the young woman, who will start studying Molecular Medicine at the University of Aarhus and is the author of the twitter account “Niqab Lovers“.
“For those who feel they have the right to say what a Muslim woman should wear, I say this: you chose your dress, I chose mine, and that’s my right,” she wrote on Twitter.
Meryem was already wearing the “niqab” before meeting her 23 year old husband, Ali, who supports her right to wear the veil, but admits that life would be simpler without it.
Europe and the ban on the Islamic veil
France was the first European country to ban the use of the veil in public places in 2011, but since 2004, students in public schools have been banned from using religious symbols. The women who use the “burqa” or “niqab” risk fines of 150 euros and if someone makes them cover their faces they may be forced to pay 30,000 euros.
Belgium also totally banned the Islamic veil in 2011, with women having to pay fines of almost 1400 euros or stay detained for seven days.
Since 2015 that there is a partial ban in the Netherlands. Women can not wear the Islamic headscarf in schools, hospitals or public transport.
In Bulgaria, the Islamic veil has been banned since 2016, and in Austria since last year. In September 2013, the Swiss canton of Ticino approved, with 66% of the votes in a referendum, the ban of “burqas” and “niqabs” in public places. The government refused this year to hold a national referendum, leaving the decision for each canton.
A law proposing to ban the Islamic headscarf during school lessons was proposed earlier this year in Norway. The argument is that this locks the good communication between students and teachers. Unfortunately, the criticism forced the law to be rejected.