The grand coalition government of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Socialist Party (SPÖ) have now agreed to ban the full-face Islamic veil, known as the burqa, as part of a new integration package.The grand coalition agreed on the burqa ban proposal Tuesday as part of a new sweeping integration package that aims to tackle issues with asylum seekers as well as Islamic fundamentalism. Much of the legislation had already been proposed by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of the ÖVP last year but was not agreed upon until the two parties renegotiated their coalition agreement earlier this year, Die Welt reports.
The ban on the burqa, which covers the face and obscures the eyes of the wearer, will also cover the niqab which covers the face but not the eyes. Any full face veil that obscures a woman’s face will also be banned under the new legislation.
Also in the legislation is a ban on the distribution of the Quran in public places. Foreign Minister Kurz had proposed a ban on the distribution of the Quran after a radical Islamist Salafist organisation called “True Religion” was raided and banned in Germany. The group used the distribution of Qurans as a cover to radicalise and recruit Muslims for extremist groups like Islamic State.
Last year, the Swiss government considered banning the distribution of the Quran for the same reasons as “True Religion” was operating in their country as well.
Another part of the integration legislation will create special German language and Western values courses that will be offered to those with recognised asylum status and asylum seekers who are thought to have high chances for approval. The cost of the legislation is estimated to be around €200 euros.
Asylum seekers will also be made to perform mandatory charity work and if they refuse they will see cuts in their welfare payments from the government. Kurz championed the policies saying: “This is the only way for people to work towards the respect of the majority of society.”
Austria is just the latest country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in Europe as more and more countries are considering adopting similar bans. France has banned the garment for years, while countries like Bulgaria and the Netherlands have only banned it recently.
Aside from the UK, one of the countries who has yet to ban the burqa has been Germany. Last year German Interior Minister Thomas De Maizière proposed a partial ban in public venues like schools, courts, and universities, but was against a total ban. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile has called for a ban, though currently no legislation has been passed.