Austrian govt seeks to ban full-face veil in public

Austria's chancellor Christian Kerr will seek to ban full-face veils in public as part of a wide-ranging government programme aimed at fending off the challenge of the far-right

The ban would apply to the burqa and niqabs, which cover all or most of the face and are often worn by conservative Muslim women.

This rule comes as part of a 35-page reform programme statement from Austria to counter the rise of their popular far-right Freedom party ahead of next year's parliamentary election.

Chancellor of Austria Christian Kern stated that the governing coalition has agreed to ban the veils in places such as courts, and schools.

Austria's move for a burqa ban emerged from recent crisis negotiations between the coalition partners amid differences over the government's direction, as it faces a serious challenge from the far-right Freedom Party.

While the government's working paper also said civil servants in executive positions, such as judges and state prosecutors, should be forced to wear "religiously neutral" clothing, the Austrian justice ministry has distanced itself from the proposals, stating that guidelines already prescribe specific clothing in court.

"We are committed to an open society, which also presupposes open communication", said a document explaining the ban, according to UPI.

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Last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the full-face veil should be prohibited in Germany "wherever it is legally possible", and earlier this month the African country of Morocco reportedly banned the burqa, citing security reasons. "A full-face veil in public places stands in its way and will therefore be banned", it said.

The ban is also coming amid growing concerns of harassment against Muslims around the world following US President Donald Trump's temporary ban on citizens from some Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

The announcement was met with a backlash from Islamic groups and Austrian Muslims, who slammed the plan as discriminatory.

France was the first European country to ban full-face veils six years ago.

Apart from the ban on Muslim veils, the "integration law" also includes mandatory attendance of German language lessons and value courses for all refugees and migrants arriving in Austria.

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