Austria's ‘burka ban’ comes into force, prohibiting face veils in public places

Austria's ‘burka ban’ comes into force, prohibiting face veils in public placesA ban on full-face coverings, which includes Muslim veils such as those worn in burkas, comes into force in Austria today as anti-immigration parties look poised to win national elections later this month. The new law states that faces must be visible from hairline to chin in public places and includes off-slope ski masks and surgical masks outside of hospitals.  Austrian police are allowed to use force to make people show their face and can impose fines of €150 (£132). Austria’s ban comes after France and Belgium bans in 2011 and the Dutch parliament also debating a similar law. Map: Which countries have banned the veil? Muslim groups have condemned the law saying only a tiny minority of women in the country wear full-face veils. 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. However, there has been strong support for the law reflecting growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the predominantly Catholic country. "It's not right that those living here don't show their faces," said Emma Schwaiger, who expressed support for the ban in a straw poll on the streets of Vienna. History of the Burka Parties campaigning on an anti-immigration message are on course win elections on October 15 that could see them form a coalition government. Polling this week showed the hardline People’s Party and Freedom Party on 34 per cent and 25 per cent, with the centrist Social Democrats, who are the majority party in the current coalition government, struggling on 27 per cent. The People’s Party, which is poised to be the largest party after the election, has been resurgent under their new leader, a telegenic 31-year-old called Sebastian Kurz. Austrian Foreign Minister and leader of the People's Party, Sebastian Kurz Credit: EPA Under his leadership the party has tacked right on immigration, although it has stopped short of using the xenophobic language of the Freedom Party. As foreign minister, Kurz, whose People’s Party is the minority coalition partner, shut down the West Balkans route into the EU heartland for migrants and is calling for zero illegal immigration. He has also said the face veil ban will be rigorously enforced if his party is the largest after the election.

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