Algerian millionaire and political activist Rachid Nekkaz has promised to pay the €150 fines of any Muslim woman caught wearing the full-face Islamic veil in Austria after the ban on the garment comes into effect on October 1st.
Mr. Nekkaz (pictured, above) promised to pay all the fines for wearing the banned garment this week and received deep criticism for his offer from Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who initially proposed the ban last year, Austrian newspaper Kurier reports.
“We certainly do not like this, and whoever wears a niqab or burqa in Austria has to face consequences,” Mr. Kurz said in an interview on Thursday.
Kurz said there is also a possibility that the Algerian could be committing a criminal offence by paying for other people’s fines. “We will not tolerate any symbolic acts that aim to build a counter-society to ours,” he warned.
This is not the first time Nekkaz has offered to pay for fines resulting from the wearing of banned Islamic clothing. In France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, he and his organisation “Touche pas à ma constitution” (“Don’t touch my constitution”) have spent over 300,000 euros paying off fines and legal costs.
Austrian broadcaster Servus TV, which is owned by Austrian energy drink giant Red Bull, claimed that Nekkaz was looking to expand his organisation into the country. “If one accepts religious freedom, one must also accept the visibility of religions,” Nekkaz said justifying his actions.
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The Austrian burqa ban was initially proposed by Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) leader Sebastian Kurz last year but was delayed for months by the Social Democrats (SPÖ). The bill was finally passed earlier this year and is not specifically against the burqa and niqab but covers all facial coverings in public that makes facial features unrecognisable in public places.
Kurz has taken a harder line on migrant integration over the past year and going into next month’s elections he is a clear front-runner in the polls.
Only the anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ) have been more hardline with leader Heinz-Christian Strache vowing to ban Islamism and reduce migration to zero. The FPÖ currently polls in second place fueling speculation of a coalition between them and Kurz’s ÖVP after the national elections on October 15th.
Austria, IMAS poll
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