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)


EU offers to extend Brexit transition as leaders meet

Updated 53 min 2 sec ago
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EU offers to extend Brexit transition as leaders meet

  • EU negotiator Michel Barnier is ready to add a year to the 21-month post Brexit transition period
  • The main disagreement between London and Brussels is over how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit

BRUSSELS: The European Union is ready to extend Brexit’s post-divorce transition period by a year to allow more time to find a trade deal, diplomats said Wednesday ahead of a difficult summit.
Prime Minister Theresa may is due in Brussels later in the day to address the other 27 EU leaders on the stalled negotiations toward a divorce deal to bring Britain out of the Union.
Talks are at an impasse over the issue of a legal backstop to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic open after the UK leaves the bloc on march 29 — but EU negotiator Michel Barnier has an idea.
According to two European diplomats, Barnier is ready to add a year to the 21-month post Brexit transition period — taking it to the end of 2021 — to provide more space to strike a trade deal.
This offer would not in itself resolve the back-stop issue, which must be settled in the Brexit treaty that must be ratified before March to avoid a damaging “no deal” scenarios.
But the extension would grant more time to agree a new EU-UK trade relationship and avoid the need for separate plans for Northern Ireland, which London staunchly opposes.
The diplomats said that Barnier had revealed his offer to EU ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday.
With the offer on the table, Europe is seeking to put pressure on May to come to Brussels with ideas of her own.
“I am going to ask Prime Minister May whether she has concrete proposals on how to break the impasse,” EU president Donald Tusk declared.
But May, hemmed in by opponents in her own party and even in her own cabinet, has no such proposals.
The choreography of Wednesday’s summit opening emphasises British isolation.
May will meet one-on-one with Tusk at 17:45 (1545 GMT) before briefing her 27 European colleagues, but then the rest of the EU leaders will leave to discuss Brexit over dinner without her.
Tusk has made it clear that if May and EU negotiator Michel Barnier do not offer signs of concrete progress toward a draft deal he will not call a November summit to sign it.
Instead, the whole circus could either be pushed back to December or — more dramatically — the EU could use the November weekend to meet on preparations for a “no-deal” Brexit.
Previously, both sides had agreed that Britain crashing out of the Union on March 29 next year with neither a divorce agreement nor a road-map to future ties would be an economic and diplomatic disaster.
But, after Britain’s refusal to accept an indefinite legal “backstop” to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, doubts are mounting.
“I think we are quite close to a no-deal,” warned Konrad Szymanski, the Polish minister for European Affairs after a pre-summit meeting with his European counterparts in Luxembourg.
Back in Brussels, a stern Tusk said he had “no grounds for optimism” based on a report Tuesday from Barnier and May’s appearance in parliament on Monday.
The main disagreement between London and Brussels is over how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit, but May is also fighting with her own MPs, who must ultimately approve the final divorce deal.
At a three-hour cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, which included ministers with reservations about her strategy, May said a deal was possible if they all stood together.
“I’m convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this,” she said, according to her spokesman.
Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, May had said a deal was “achievable” while sticking to her principles on the Irish border issue.
But a senior European official said the speech had only underscored for Barnier the uphill struggle he faces to get an agreement.
To solve the Irish question, Britain has proposed staying aligned to the EU’s customs rules until a wider trade deal can be signed that avoids the need for any frontier checks.
But her own euroskeptic Conservative MPs are demanding this “backstop” arrangement be time-limited, something the EU will not accept.
May said the EU was also insisting on its own “backstop” in case the London proposal did not work, which would see Northern Ireland alone stay aligned to the customs union and single market.
She says this would threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom — and it is strongly opposed by her Northern Irish allies from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Economists fear “no deal” Brexit would greatly disrupt trade, travel and manufacturers’ supply chains in Europe, push Britain into recession and even have global consequences.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve Jerome Powell warned that a “disorderly Brexit” would slow the EU economy as a whole and have a knock-on effect on US banks.