Veil-Wearing Muslims Leave Austria as the Niqab Ban Kicks In

AMR NABIL/AFP/Getty Images

Austria’s new ban on facial coverings in public has prompted veil-wearing Muslims and their families to leave the country, reports a new documentary.

Police have so far refused to give details on the law’s effect on their work, but a spokesman told news show Vienna Today that there have been around 100 violations of the ban since it came into force on October 1st.

Two thirds of these were said to concern the Islamic face veil, while the remaining third concerned people using masks or scarves to hide their face  — an act which now carries a penalty of €150 since the ban came into place.

Elif Öztürk, from ‘Documenting Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Racism’, told the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) news programme that the ban makes devout Muslims feel their identity is under attack from the state, “even when they are Austrian citizens”.

According to the NGO worker, niqab-wearing Muslims are suffering under the new law — which carries a €150 fine — and have begun to emigrate, isolate themselves from society and even lose weight, as the most common responses to the popular measure.

She said that Muslim women affected by the ban have tended to react in three ways, one of which involved women making the “very emotional decision” to ditch the controversial garment, which has been banned by a number of nations as a counter-terror measure.

“Second, there are women who have emigrated, and third, there are women who have had to stop leaving the house and instead confine themselves to their apartments,” she told the public broadcaster.

Speaking of women who contacted Documenting Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Racism over the ban, Öztürk told Vienna Today about people who had felt forced to emigrate by the ban, including one family who moved to Egypt as giving up the face veil was “out of the question”, and a woman who relocated to Serbia with her children.

Going on to detail how the law has affected lives of people in correspondence with the NGO, she highlighted a case in which a child was pulled from school in Austria “because the mother with the veil can no longer bring her child to school and the father works full-time”.

According to Austria’s Today newspaper, there is not yet any data on the number of women who have decided to leave the country as a result of the law, nor to where they have chosen to emigrate.

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