VIENNA - Austrian conservative politicians called for a ban on full body veils on Thursday, saying the veils would hinder women to integrate into the mainly Catholic Austrian society.
Public debate about a ban on full body veils was ignited in several European countries after three French Mediterranean cities banned body-covering Muslim burkini swimwear, saying the burkini defies French laws on secularism.
France, which has the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at 5 million, in 2010 introduced a ban on full-face niqab and burqa veils in public.
Austria's Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz from the centrist People's Party, who plans to introduce a new integration law next year, said religious symbols such as the burqa were an issue that needed to be discussed.
"A full body veil is hindering integration," Kurz told broadcaster ORF, adding that the burqa was "not a religious symbol but a symbol for a counter-society."
In Austria, Islam is the second most widely professed religion, practiced by 7 percent of the population or around 600,000 people, according to the Islamic Religious Community.