Austria to ban full-face veil in public places

Vienna, Jan 31 (IANS) Austria’s governing coalition has agreed to ban full-face veils in courts, schools and other public places, the media reported on Tuesday.

The prohibition will apply to the naqab and burqa, the full-face or face-and-body coverings worn by Muslim women.

The measures by the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the centrist People’s party are seen as an attempt to counter the rise of the far-right Freedom Party, whose candidate narrowly lost December’s presidential vote.

The centrist coalition nearly collapsed last week amid crisis negotiations over the government’s future direction.

“The full-face veil will be banned in public spaces,” Chancellor Christian Kern said after the week-long negotiations over the issue concluded, adding that the ban will be implemented over the next 18 months.

The 35-page statement included increased security measures and forcing migrants to sign an “integration contract” and a “statement of values”.

“Those who are not prepared to accept enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society,” according to the text of the coalition agreement published on Monday.

“We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication. Full-body veils in public spaces stand against that and will therefore be prohibited,” the agreement said.

The agreement also banned police officers, judges and magistrates and public prosecutors from wearing head scarves in the interest of appearing “ideologically and religiously neutral”.

The French Parliament passed an act more than six years ago that made France the first European Union country to ban the burka and naqab in public places.

In December, German chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on the full-face veil as she launched her re-election bid for a fourth term in office.