Restrictions on face and full-body veils are back in the spotlight in parts of Europe after some French cities banned the burkini swimsuit, saying the garment, which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed, defies laws on secularism.
A spate of attacks against civilians claimed by militant group Islamic State, notably in Belgium, France and Germany, has sharpened the debate, with a large influx of mainly Muslim migrants to the continent also giving rise to resentment among some Europeans.
Here are details on where the full-body burqa and burkini, and the niqab face veil, are banned and where bans are under discussion.
Austrian conservative politicians have called for a ban on full body veils, saying they prevent women who wear them from integrating given it is a mainly Catholic country. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has said he would expect a full ban to be problematic in terms of constitutional law.
A spokesman for Austria’s Supreme Court of Justice said there was no law banning face-coverings.
But that court recently heard a case in which an employer in a notary office fired his Muslim employee for wearing a face veil, saying it inhibited her interaction with clients. She sued on equality grounds but the court agreed with the employer, saying a face veil impacted her ability to do her job.
A Sports Ministry spokesman said he was not aware of any countrywide rule regarding burkinis in public swimming pools and pools had the right to make their own decisions.
Belgium banned the niqab – which covers the hair and face except for the eyes – and the burqa in 2011 and 60 women have since been prosecuted for wearing them.
It is forbidden to wear the burkini in many municipal swimming pools, but not at the beach.
The N-VA, the Flemish center-right party, is calling for a general ban on the burkini. The MR, the French-speaking Liberal Party, says it is ready to start debating that too.
“If you allow (the wearing of burkinis), you’ll put these women on the sidelines of society,” N-VA deputy Nadia Sminate told newspaper De Standaard.
There is no general ban on burqas or the burkini in the Czech Republic.
In 2013 a school in Prague banned two girls from wearing the hijab. This year one of the two students filed a court complaint against the school, demanding an apology. There has been no verdict yet.
Also in 2013, some parents protested against a teacher wearing the hijab in a kindergarten in a town in the south of the country. She was not forced to step down because other parents and local authorities supported her.
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