Demonstrators covering their faces protest against the burka ban in Vienna..
(photo credit: LEONHARD FOEGER / REUTERS)
A ban on burkas and other face coverings was enacted on Monday in Austria.
The Austrian ban makes public wearing of the Arab-style niqab, which leaves the eyes uncovered, and the Afghan-style burka, which covers the face with a cloth grid, liable to a fine of 150 euros.
The legislation was enacted with the aim to ensure "the cohesion of society in an open society," officials stated.
"Acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria," the government added.
A French businessman said he would pay all fines imposed on women wearing a full-face veil, an Austrian broadcaster reported in September.
The reported remarks from Rachid Nekkaz, who already pays fines for women who wear Muslim niqabs and burkas despite bans in France and Belgium
, provoked criticism from Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.
Germany's Merkel says burka 'does not belong in our country'
"I am reaching out to all women in Europe and especially to women in Austria who voluntarily wear the burka, I will always be there and pay the fines," Nekkaz was quoted as saying in a Servus TV interview.
If one accepts freedom of religion, one also had to accept a religion's visibility, he said. The property dealer with Algerian roots said he had already spent around 300,000 euros covering relevant fines.
Foreign Minister Kurz, who is the conservative front runner for this month's legislative elections with his People's Party, said Austria would not tolerate symbols aimed at establishing a parallel society.
"Whoever wears niqab or burka in Austria has to deal with the consequence," Kurz said. He threatened to fine Nekkaz if he followed through with his plans.
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