Danish ban on face veil unnecessary: Rights groups

Women in niqab are pictured after the Danish Parliament banned the wearing of face veils in public, at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen/via REUTERS)
Updated 01 June 2018
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Danish ban on face veil unnecessary: Rights groups

  • 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).

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.
(Wtih AFP)


Bangladeshi president urged to curb poll violence

Updated 32 sec ago
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Bangladeshi president urged to curb poll violence

  • “One party is conducting a countrywide election campaign while another party cannot even hang posters,” Selima Rahman told journalists
DHAKA: Bangladesh’s opposition alliance, Jatiya s Oikya Front (JOF) — led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — has called on President Abdul Hamid to help bring an end to violent clashes between followers of the country’s leading political parties ahead of the national election scheduled for Dec. 30.
The JOF submitted a letter to the president’s office requesting a meeting with Hamid on Tuesday, although one of the coalition’s leaders, Subrata Chowdhury, told Arab News, “We are yet to receive any reply.”
Violence has flared between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the BNP, with confrontations taking place across the country since December 10, when campaigning in all 300 constituencies began.
Within the first week, two AL supporters were killed, while more than 500 leaders and supporters of both parties were injured. The AL claims that police have arrested around 400 BNP supporters.
“We are yet to receive a reply from the president’s office,” said Subrata Chowdhury a top leader of opposition alliance JOF who is also a contender in this election from a constituency in the capital Dhaka.
In an interview with Arab News, Chowdhury — who is running for election in a Dhaka constituency — alleged that opposition parties are unable to campaign properly because of violence from their opponents and police harassment.
“We are facing injustice,” he said. “Our leaders can’t stay in their constituency and move freely as plain-clothed law enforcers intimidate them to leave the area. There is no level playing field.”
He went on to compare the country’s election commission (EC) to “a referee not playing an impartial role.”
This was why the JOF had requested a meeting with the president, he explained: “Our election commission is a constitutional body, appointed by the president of the country. So we want to present our demands to the president.”
He added that the JOF expects to sit with the election commission again on Dec. 17 “to ensure a level playing field.” Political scientist Dr. Ataur Rahman said that, according to the constitution, the election commission now holds executive power in the country.
“Anything concerning a free and fair election depends on the role of the commission, and the present government will not take any responsibility for this,” he told Arab News. “So, in the interests of the country, the president can ask the election commission to perform its duties without any fear.”
He added, however, that there are also limits to the president’s power, since he is himself a candidate nominated by a political party.
Rahman called the ongoing violence “unexpected,” pointing out that there had been a number of successful meetings between the parties about the election. However, he added that he did not believe the violence would jeopardize the election. “In this charged situation everybody is trying to establish their might,” he said. “And it seems that the major parties are practicing the ‘Might is Right’ formula. But the election will most likely take place according to the announced schedule.”
On Sunday, Selima Rahman, vice chair of the BNP, delivered a letter to the election commission requesting the immediate deployment of the army to keep the peace and to ensure that all candidates are given the same opportunities to campaign.
“One party is conducting a countrywide election campaign while another party cannot even hang posters,” she told journalists. “We would like to know the EC’s definition of a level playing field.
“The police are acting like our opposition. Attacks have been launched against BNP leaders and activists, including Mirza Abbas and Mahbub Uddin Khokon. Khokon was injured by police fire. We are facing obstacles to our campaigning in Dhaka,” she continued.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda denied the opposition’s claims. “Candidates are able to conduct campaigns and they are not facing any obstacles,” he told reporters on Saturday at his office in Dhaka.
Referring to the clashes, Huda said, “We will take action based on reports from the investigation committees.”
He also claimed that the EC would write to the Ministry of Home Affairs “soon,” asking them not to harass candidates and campaigners, nor to arrest anyone without good reason.