The Austrian government has announced its plan to ban women from wearing full-face veils in public. The ruling coalition of the Social Democratic Party and Austrian People’s Party released a 35-page document, which also includes plans to increase security measures and make it compulsory for migrants in the country to sign an “integration contract and declaration of values” in the next 18 months, Austria’s The Local reported on Tuesday.
Migrants and asylum seekers will face severe penalties if they violate the contract’s provisions. The proposal, however, needs Parliament approval to be enforced.
The aim is to “avoid giving the 6,00,000 Muslims in Austria the feeling that they are not part of our society”, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern told the local publication. The plan envisions Austria as an “open society that requires open communication”, and the document says full-face veils are not in line with that image.
“Those who are not prepared to accept enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society,” the document said. The government also plans on reducing the participation of foreign nationals in the Austrian labour force.
The announcement was criticised by several sections of society as discriminatory. The president of Austria’s Islamic Faith Community, Ibrahim Olgun, told The Guardian that the plan would hamper relations between the Muslim community and the government. Tarafa Baghajati of the Austrian Muslim Initiative said the ban would be “counter-productive”, while stating that he did not necessarily agree with the full-face veil, CNN reported.
Similar bans were imposed in France and Belgium in 2011, while a partial ban was enforced in the Netherlands in 2015. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had expressed her support for a ban of this nature in 2016. Earlier in January, reports said the production, sale and import of burqas was banned in Morocco.