Bulgaria bans Face Veiling

Last Friday the Bulgarian parliament declared the wearing of face veils banned in public , with the objective to boost security in the wake of Islamist militant attacks in Europe.

The ban on burqas that was pushed by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition, echoes similar measures in western European countries such as France, Netherlands and Belgium which have various laws banning the wearing of burqas or niqabs. Individuals who still wear the niqab may face a fines of up to 1,500 levs ($860) as well as suspension of social benefits.

The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms refused to take part in the vote, which followed full-face veils ban in public in several Bulgarian towns. It said the ban it would incite ethnic and religious intolerance.

However, the ruling claimed that the new ban is not about religious outfits but about enhancing national security and enabling for better video surveillance.

“The law is not directed against religious communities and is not repressive,” ruling GERB’s senior lawmaker Krasimir Velchev said. “We made a very good law for the safety of our children.”

The new law proposes that, clothing hiding the face may not be worn in government offices, schools, cultural institutions and places of public recreation, but exceptions are allowed for health or professional reasons.

Although , a small percentage of Muslim women in Europe cover their faces , their veils have become symbols for Europeans troubled by security , immigration and Muslim integration.

The Muslim population in Bulgaria consist  of about 12 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.2 million population where most belong to a centuries-old community of largely ethnic Turks. More commonly, Muslim women in Bulgaria do not wear niqabs or burqas, excerpt for a monitory group in the Roma community.

Bulgarians are worried that the migrant arrivals in Europe may threat their predominantly orthodox Christian culture, but banning the niqab or burqa may be just the beginning.

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