Denmark forbids burqa, niqab; rights group slam ban as unnecessary

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Women wearing niqab sit in the audience at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)
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Women wearing the islamic veil niqab sit in the audience seats of the Danish Parliament, at Christiansborg Castle, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday May 31. 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
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Women wearing niqab sit in the audience at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)
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Women wearing niqab exit the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)
Updated 01 June 2018
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Denmark forbids burqa, niqab; rights group slam ban as unnecessary

  • Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces.
  • Wearing a burqa, which covers a person’s entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).

STOCKHOLM/LONDON: Danish parliamentarians voted 75 to 30 on Thursday to ban garments that cover the face, and although the government denied the law was aimed at any religion, it is perceived to be directed chiefly at Muslim women.
Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces in a move slammed by human rights campaigners as “a violation of women’s rights.”Human rights groups also said the law was “neither necessary nor proportionate.”
“Anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine,” says the law, which was passed by 75 votes to 30 in the Danish parliament. Another 74 members of the Danish Parliament absented themselves from Thursday’s vote. 
Presented by the center-right government, the legislation was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party. 
The new rule will take effect on August 1.
Wearing a burqa, which covers a person’s entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).
The ban also targets other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas and false beards. Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner.
It is not known how many women wear the niqab and burqa in Denmark.
“I don’t think there are many who wear the burqa here in Denmark. But if you do, you should be punished with a fine,” Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen was quoted as saying by Ritzau news agency in February.
Amnesty International condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights,” especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.
“Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion,” the organization’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement following the vote.
“If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” she added.
Supporters argue the ban enables better integration of Muslim immigrants into Danish society, claiming the garment is used to oppress women.
“Some people use (the full-face veil) to promote an ideology which, if successful, would mean many others would lose their right to freedom. It’s a matter of balance,” Martin Henriksen, spokesman for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, told Ritzau.

'I'd rather leave'
But Ayesha Haleem, a Pakistani woman who has been wearing the niqab for the past six years that she’s lived in Denmark, said no one, including her husband, forced her to wear it.
“Many people believe that men force us to wear the niqab or burqa. That’s completely wrong,” she told Danish public broadcaster DR.
“If I didn’t want to wear the niqab then I wouldn’t, even before meeting my husband,” Haleem said. “I’d rather leave the country than take my veil off.”
The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing it in public.
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places with a law that took effect in 2011.
German lawmakers approved a partial ban on “covering the face” last year.
According to that legislation, civil servants and officials including judges and soldiers must have their faces uncovered. People can also be required to remove facial coverings in order to match them with their identity papers.
Austria’s law on banning the full-face Muslim garment in public spaces came into force last year.

(With AFP)


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.