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The burqa, the law and other EU countries

France is not the only European country to be considering a ban on full Islamic veils. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Italy all have laws – or are considering laws – against clothes that cover all of the face.

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In the Netherlands several bills relating to the prohibition of wearing burqas and niqabs are in preparation, especially relating to education and public services.

Denmark’s government is considering limiting the wearing of full veils in public, in schools and in courts, and is awaiting recommendations from a government committee. In 2009 a proposal to impose a ban was withdrawn after the country's justice ministry ruled that the laws would be problematic legally.

In Italy, a 1975 law that is part of the “provisions for the protection of public order” forbids the covering of faces in public places, be it by wearing veils or motorcycle helmets. Italy’s far-right Northern League proposed a bill in 2009 that would impose a prison sentence of up to two years and a 2,000 euro fine for those who “because of their religious affiliations are difficult or impossible to identify”.

In the UK, there are no laws prohibiting the wearing of the full veil, and on Jan. 22 the British government reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of expression in terms of both religion and dress. The UK's education ministry, however, published guidelines in 2007 allowing schools to ban the wearing of niqabs in class. British headteachers can impose their own dress codes and many schools insist that pupils wear uniform.

In Austria, there is an ongoing debate, started by Social Democrat Minister for Women Gabriell Heinisch-Hoseck, towards formulating laws that would ban the full veil in public spaces if the number of women wearing such veils were to increase dramatically.

Many local authorities in Belgium have banned the wearing of the full veil in public spaces, using police laws that forbid the wearing of masks in public other than at times of carnival.
 

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