Denmark’s center-right governing coalition has passed a law banning full-face veils in public places, starting Aug. 1, reports NPR. The ban makes it illegal for Muslim women to wear a burka (a head-to-toe garment) or a niqab (a face covering) in public. Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen has said that women wearing burqas or niqabs would be fined or told to remove their veils or "go home,” according to Reuters. Violators would receive fines of about $156 for a first-time offense, and up to $1,568 for the fourth violation. Supporters of the ban say that covering the face is a form of oppression for women and poses security risks. Pape Poulsen says face coverings are “incompatible with the values of Danish society" and that “we must be able to see each other and we must also be able to see each other's facial expressions, it's a value in Denmark," the BBC reports.
But critics say the law will force Muslim women indoors. “If the intention of this law was to protect women's rights it fails abjectly,” an Amnesty International spokesperson says in a statement. “Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing." Zainab Ibn Hssain, 20, of Copenhagen, wears a niqab and is concerned. “It will mean that I won’t be able to go to school, go to work or go out with my family,” she tells Reuters. The law does allow people to cover their faces for a “recognizable purpose,” such as protection from cold weather or when wearing a motorcycle helmet, and police officers will have to use "common sense" in enforcing it, Pape Poulsen says, according to the AP. Austria, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and the German state of Bavaria have also imposed bans or restrictions on full-face veils in public places. And last year, Quebec passed North America's first "burka ban." (Read more Denmark stories.)