Muslims in Denmark rally against ban on face veil

Over a thousand Muslims and non-Muslim Danes staged protests against Denmark’s ban on Islamic full-face veils in capital Copenhagen and Aarhus city on Wednesday when the rule came into force.

Protesters alleged the ban was anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant and violated women’s right to choose their clothing.

Supporters of the ban said it will help Muslim immigrants to integrate themselves into the Danish society.  Muslims constitute 5% of Denmark’s 5.7 million population. Of them, around 150 Muslim women wear seven different types of veils including niqab, which only shows the eyes, and burqa which covers a woman’s entire face.

The protesters defied the federal ban by wearing veils and staging a three-hour rally from Norrebro district to Bellahoj police station on the outskirts of Copenhagen where they formed a human chain. While marching, they chanted slogans like ‘”No racists in our streets’ and ‘My life, my choice.’

Under the law, anyone wearing burqa, niqab or other forms of Islamic veils will be fined 1,000 kroner ($155). Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner ($1,559).

Police can now order any woman wearing the veil in public space to remove it and leave.

The protesters, who rallied against the ‘burqa ban’ on Wednesday, will not be fined as such peaceful protests upholding freedom of speech are exempt from the law.

Lawmakers reject criticism that the ban approved in May unfairly targets Muslims.

While presenting the proposal for the ban in February, Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said burqa and niqab are not compatible with the values and sense of community in Danish society.

Amnesty International on Wednesday said the new Danish law violated the  rights of women to wear full-face veils.

Denmark has now joined France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Bulgaria where similar ban is in place.