By Stefan M. Kløvning
Denmark, Immigration – In an effort to assimilate Muslim immigrants in Denmark, the center-right coalition voted 75 to 30 on Thursday in the Danish parliament to make full-face veils illegal in the Scandinavian welfare state, which more specifically targeted the Muslim niqab and burqa. The law will take effect after August 1.
The move has been criticized as unnecessary with reference to only 0.2% of Muslim women in Denmark wearing the traditional garments, and half of them being ethnic Danes. Another critique is in response to it being labeled a tradition oppressive to women in the Muslim culture. The assertion is that many of them choose themselves to wear the full-face veils because of their perceived sacredness the clothing has to the Muslim faith, and wouldn’t wear them if they didn’t want to. Pakistani immigrant Ayesha Haleem claims to be one of these women and exclaims that she’d rather leave the country than take the veil off.
The Danish People’s Party is an anti-immigration party which favored the legislation on the basis of it potentially being a threat to some central Western values such as freedom, equality, democracy, and fraternity. Its spokesman Martin Henriksen told Ritzau that ‘Some people use (the full-face veil) to promote an ideology which, if successful, would mean many others would lose their right to freedom. It’s a matter of balance.’ In essence, Henriksen’s position is that even though there are some women who wear the garment on their own accord, such argumentation against the legislation (as Haleem’s) neglects the women who do get forced to wear them. He does, however, say regarding the intent that he believes there to be ‘some’ and not ‘all’ that uses it to promote the ideology in that sense.
The Danish Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulson, who also supports the legislation, seems to give a better justification, asserting that ‘In terms of value, I see a discussion of what kind of society we should have with the roots and culture we have, that we don’t cover our face and eyes, 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.’ Amnesty International labeled the legislation a ‘discriminatory violation of women’s rights’ on the based on the argumentation of Haleem of not being able to choose themselves what they want to wear, but Poulson’s reasoning covers this a lot better than Henriksen’s. Though one agrees with Poulson or not, the idea is to set a standard for all Danish citizens, and he thinks that a basic such standard would be to be able to see each other, based on the values of the culture. If one disagrees with him setting the standard here, one may meditate on what could be the ultimate consequences of a nation being too flexible in terms of values. The fear from people and parties such as Tommy Robinson, Lauren Southern, Britain First, Danish People’s Party, etc., is often not based on ideas of ethnic or religious superiority, but that too much immigration from (especially) Muslim majority countries (without adequate assimilation) could incline the nations they immigrate to, such as England, Sweden, and Denmark, to become more like the countries they immigrated from, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle-Eastern and North-African countries which, i.e. industrially and democratically speaking are inferior.
The legislation against full-face veils suggests a punishment of 1,000 Danish kroner ($156) for first-time violations and up to 10,000 ($1568) by the fourth violation. It allows for using garments to hide the face for a ‘recognizable purpose’ such as in cold weather, and to separate what does and what doesn’t have it, Poulsen suggested that police officers just had to use ‘common sense.’
Denmark isn’t the first country in Europe that has decided to ban burqas and niqabs, France was, as far back as 2011. A few months later, Belgium introduced a ban. This eventually became a trend followed by Austria, Bulgaria, the southern German state of Bavaria and the Netherlands. News outlet Quartz has also been critical to these countries, referring to the ‘minuscule’ quantity of Muslim women daring to wear them in the respective countries, i.e. 0.03% in Austria, 0.04% in France, and 0.05% in the Netherlands. In Austria, the differentiation between what’s a ‘recognizable purpose’ and what’s not goes something like this (see tweet) and can be expected to be something similar in Denmark.