First Woman Charged for Violation of Niqab Ban in Denmark

First Woman Charged for Violation of Niqab Ban in Denmark

First Woman Charged for Violation of Niqab Ban in Denmark

In June, Denmark joined a handful of European nations banning the wearing of the niqab, a garment worn by Muslim women that effectively covers the face. The law is broadly written to include any face-covering, but the practical application is that Muslim women are most directly affected. The law took effect on August 1, with the first charges being brought only a day later.

In this first situation, two women got into a scuffle, one was wearing a niqab. Both were charged with disturbing the peace. No arrests were made, but the woman wearing the niqab was fined 1,000 kroner (about $160). For a second offense, the fine will go up to 10,000 kroner.

Human rights groups have protested that a law like this violates women’s rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. However, no known court case has ever held in favor of the niqab. In one ruling last year, the European Court of Human Rights justified a ban in Belgium with the following reasoning: 

“The court found that the concern to ensure respect for the minimum guarantees of life in society could be regarded as an element of the ‘protection of the rights and freedoms of others’ and that the ban was justifiable in principle, solely to the extent that it sought to guarantee the conditions of ‘living together’.”

Other countries with bans on face veils include France, Belgium, Austria, and the German state of Bavaria.

Amnesty International opposes the ban:

“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs. This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa.

“While some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion.

“If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold.”

It seems reasonable to find that public safety trumps freedom of expression this circumstance. In fact, in an effort to be sensitive to human rights, Denmark’s law gives discretion to the officer to decide when to charge a person with a violation. An example given is if an officer sees a niqab-wearing woman walking into a mosque, he or she may decide to forgo the charge.

While giving this discretion is sort of a nice compromise, it is proper to give more weight to the specific society’s norms when the chosen expression is detrimental to that society. Covering one’s face – the way in which we recognize and identify with each other – is foundationally detrimental to trust, an essential ingredient for a free society. There are cultures where covering one’s face in public is acceptable, but in one where it is not, exceptions should not be made for individual expression.

Many US states have laws against covering one’s face, and laws like these were usually prompted for security reasons. While the wearing of a niqab could allow for nefarious types to hide their identity, an even more important reason – at least one that is more directly related to daily life – is that this physical covering harms freedom, freedom for the community and also for the individual.

Many Muslim women make the claim that they make the choice freely to wear the niqab, and that may true individually, but in Western culture, where we do respect women’s rights to remove more and more clothes, the covering of the entire face and body into a shapeless form serves more of a purpose to invalidate women and make them invisible. There is no reconciling this viewpoint with the wearing of the niqab as an extension of expression. From a Western perspective, it is seen as oppressive and detrimental to the righteous autonomy of women. So there are at least three reasons to oppose the wearing of the niqab in public: security, threats to a free society, invalidation of women.

Despite the West’s strong adherence to religious tolerance, it is not necessary that Western societies must bend to the will of Islam where Islamic rules threaten the very foundation of that society.

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7 Comments
  • Dana says:

    Supporting the First Amendment means supporting the freedom of religion, even when we disagree with the way some religions express themselves.

    I don’t like the idea that Islam forces some women to take the veil, but whether most people in our society dislike that or not, our First Amendment guarantees them that right.

    • Darleen Click says:

      I respectfully disagree. In Western Culture, being masked in public is suspicious and is not only frowned on but illegal (with exceptions) in many places.

      Example: Would antifa be so bold to act violently if they were legally forbidden from hiding their faces?

  • Kim Hirsch says:

    Very well said, Jenny, and I agree. We do not have carte blanche freedom of religious expression, despite what some may think. Orthodox Mormons, for example, cannot legally practice polygamy, despite the teachings of their church. A hospital can force a necessary blood transfusion on the child of Jehovah’s Witnesses parents, even if their church forbids it.
    We shouldn’t be cavalier about limiting religious practices, but in the case of the full-faced niqab, yes, public safety should be foremost.

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      Absolutely! We live in a society. If you want to live in said society, there are certain laws you must abide by.

  • ^Hoonie Rain Bat^ says:

    Isn’t Denmark supposed to be some glorious socialist utopia where all the comrades hold hands and sing hymns of praise to Brussels after a good round of allahu ackbar?

  • GWB says:

    While some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion.
    So, “restrictions” would be made exactly how without it being a blanket ban? Seriously, that sentence’s internal logic doesn’t stand up under critical examination.

    Covering one’s face – the way in which we recognize and identify with each other – is foundationally detrimental to trust, an essential ingredient for a free society.
    Here I think you’ve *nailed it*. The whole point of the burqa/niqab/potato sack thing is to make all the women the same and eliminate their self-identity. Because the culture that practices this is NOT free. And the women in that culture are not free to leave it, either.

    While the wearing of a niqab could allow for nefarious types to hide their identity
    It has done so on many occasions! Some terrorists in Belgium got away because they dressed in the burqa/niqab when they fled the police raid. Other terrorists have used it to disguise their bomb belt and gain entry to sensitive places before ‘sploding themselves. (Because muslim men aren’t supposed to do things like search women.) I think one of the big 52 we were looking for in Iraq tried to escape in a burqa/niqab, too.

    serves more of a purpose to invalidate women and make them invisible
    Yep, to make them into non-individuals, mere cogs in the islamic machine.

    As to the women *choosing* to wear this stuff…. well, maybe. But, what happens to the woman who refuses? Yeah, you know exactly what happens to her. She’d be lucky to get away with a (mosque/imam-sanctioned) beating. Or maybe just having her face disfigured with acid. But she also might end up on the wrong end of an “honor” killing. No, it’s not a choice, no matter how much Sarsour and her idiot feminist buddies might claim it is.

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