Bulgaria bans the full Islamic veil


Sofia: Bulgaria’s parliament on Friday approved legislation banning the Islamic face-covering veil in public, joining a handful of EU countries as debate rages across Europe over religious freedoms.

The law “prohibits the wearing in public of clothing that partially or totally covers the face”, in reference to the more common burqa or niqab.

Violations are punishable by fines of €103 ($114), up to €769 in the event of a repeat offence.

Bulgaria’s predominantly secular Muslim community, dating back to conversions in the Ottoman era, makes up around 13% of the population, mostly in the Turkish minority.

Muslim women in Bulgaria usually only wear a simple headscarf to cover their hair.

But recently, there has been a small increase in the number of niqab-wearing women among the ultra-conservative Muslim Roma minority communities.

The Roma, often poor and marginalized, represent just under 10% of the Bulgarian population, of which about a third are Muslim. Several Bulgarian cities had already banned the niqab at the local level.

The legislation was approved despite opposition from Turkey’s minority MDL party which accused other parties of “sowing religious intolerance”.

France and Belgium have both banned the burqa or niqab and Switzerland’s lower house this week narrowly approved a bill on a nationwide ban. In August, the German interior minister came out in favor of a partial ban.

This summer, France was also embroiled in banning the burkini, a full-body Islamic swimsuit, in resorts on the Côte d’Azur. A poll released earlier this month showed Britons were strongly in favor of a burqa ban. AFP

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