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'From one day to another, we’re criminals': Muslim women speak against Denmark’s burqa ban

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'From one day to another, we’re criminals': Muslim women speak against Denmark’s burqa ban
A woman holds a sign reading 'Liberal hypocrisy' in Nørrebro, Copenhagen on August 1st. Photo: Farah Bahgat
14:12 CEST+02:00
Women who wear the niqab in Denmark said on Wednesday that the ban against the Islamic veil was oppressive and would restrict their freedom, as they took part in demonstrations against the new law.

Hundreds of protesters, wearing various kinds of masks and face covers, gathered at the Superkilen park in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro neighbourhood on August 1st to object to the controversial law known as the ‘burqa ban’.

The ban, which came into force on Wednesday, imposes a fine of 1,000 kroner (134 euros) on individuals wearing garments including the burqa, which covers a person's entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, as well as other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas and false beards.

Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner. 

Marching from Superkilen to the police station in Bellahøj, hundreds of protesters violated the ban by covering their faces. A spokesman for the Copenhagen police said they did not plan to fine the protesters, AFP reported on Wednesday.

“I refuse to take off my niqab because I refuse to bow down to oppression,” Sabina, a niqabi woman who was participating in the protest, told The Local.

“I chose to wear niqab a couple years ago as a very spiritual choice. I did it for the sake of God and a way for me to connect with God. It is a part of my faith and a part of my identity,” Sabina said.

“This ban is discriminating, oppressing and is built on Islamophobia,” the 21-year-old, who preferred not to disclose her full name, said.

Hani Ali, another niqabi woman, told The Local that the ban would restrict her freedom of movement.

“I am going to try to live my life as normally as I can. Of course, it is going be difficult, there are places that I cannot go to any more but I’ll just have to make a sacrifice for what I believe is true,” Ali said.

“I will hope that we can change the climate or the narration of what a Muslim woman is and maybe they will change the law or subtract it someday,” she added.

READ ALSO: Women defiant as Danish ban on full-face veil takes effect

The law has received criticism from human rights campaigners including Amnesty International, who have accused it of violating women’s rights.

After the government proposed the ban to the parliament in February, Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen said in a statement that the face veil is “incompatible with the values in Danish society and disrespectful to the community.”

Also on Wednesday, dozens of supporters of the ban gathered to celebrate its coming into effect, saying that the face veil deprived women of their freedom, DR reported.

“It sounds hypocritical to say that these women are oppressed so we are going to free them by making them criminals,” Ali told The Local.

The ban was approved by parliament in May, making Denmark one of few European states to have legally approved burqa bans, following France, Belgium, and Bulgaria.

READ ALSO: 'Because I have children and I don't want to get into problems, I will remove my veil'

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