Austria Has Just Banned Face Coverings In Public

The news comes despite the Austrian President stating 'It is every woman's right to always dress how she wants'

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On Sunday, Austria joined Belgium and France in enforcing a national ban on face covering.

Partial bans are in place in Italy, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands.

Despite calls as recent as April from the Austrian President for solidarity with Muslim women, the law that was passed in May has come into effect.

Last year, the left wing Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly won the Austrian Presidential election against a far-right, anti-Islam candidate.

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Alexander Van der Bellen

According to Indy100, Van der Bellen has been vocal about his leftist views on liberal cohabitation and ethnic and religious diversity. He stated on Austrian TV:

It is every woman's right to always dress how she wants, that is my opinion on the matter, And it is not only Muslim women, all women can wear a headscarf, and if this real and rampant Islamophobia continues, there will come a day where we must ask all women to wear a headscarf – all – out of solidarity to those who do it for religious reasons.

The Independent reported that, 'The President's office said he believed prohibitions were only justified in select circumstances, such as for female judges, where religious dress could raise questions over their professional neutrality.'

Despite these statements, a new law states that faces must be visible from hairline to chin in public places. The law bans Muslim veils such as the burka or niqab, but also places restrictions on the use of medical face masks and clown makeup.

Austrian police are allowed to use force to make people show their face and can impose fines of €150 (£132).

Yet Muslim groups have condemned the law saying only a tiny minority of women in the country wear full-face veils.

The government says the law is about protecting Austrian values and to encourage 'integration of Muslims into the community.'

Carla Amina Bhagajati of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria said the 'handful' of fully veiled women she knows of in Vienna 'now are criminalized' and 'restricted to their homes'.

'This open society is, in a hypocritical way, endangering its own values,' she added.

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