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Hundreds protest in Denmark against new ban on facial veils in public

By Emil Gjerding Nielson

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Hundreds of Danes gathered in Copenhagen on Wednesday to protest a new ban on wearing facial veils in public and accuse the government of women's rights

The Danish Parliament issued a ban in May and joined France and some other European Union countries to defend what some politicians call secular and democratic values.

The demonstrators, many wearing the niqab veil or all-enveloping burqa, began a march from the central district of Norrebro to the Bellahoj police station on the outskirts of the city.

Protesters, often with children in tow, included non-Muslim Muslim women and non-Muslims, a Danes covered with faces. No incidents were reported.

"We must send a message to the government that we are not bowing down to discrimination and a law that specifically targets a religious minority," said Sabina, 21, a Niqab hairstyle student that her full name was not is used.

She is one of about 150-200 Muslim women – 0.1 percent of those in the countryside – who wear either the niqab or burqa clothing that covers the face or whole body every day. Muslims make up about 5 percent of Denmark's 5.7 million inhabitants.

Under the law, the police will be able to order women to remove their veils or order them to leave public areas. Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said officers would fine them and tell them to go home.

Fines range from 1,000 Danish kroner ($ 160) for a first offense up to 10,000 kronor for a fourth.

DISCRIMINATORY, CRITICS SAY [19659011] Despite its generic formulation, legislation is widely interpreted as discriminating against Muslims in Denmark and as violating the right of women to freedom of expression and religion.

Critics who consider the small number of Muslim women in Denmark who actually wear a niqab regard the law as one of the reasons for the increase in anti-immigrant sentiment in the Nordic countries.

"If this law protects women's rights, it fails," said Fotis Filippou, deputy Europe director of human rights group Amnesty International. "Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing – a ridicule of the freedoms that Denmark claims to uphold."

The police said none of the veiled protesters would be punished for certain uses of facial veils, for example, to exercise freedom as part of a peaceful protest, are exempted from the law.

The Ministry of Justice stated that the ban would focus on women who are forced by their families to wear veils, even though it was indicted for being vague about who would conflict

The head of the Danish police union, Claus Oxfeldt, said he would have preferred a more comprehensive guide to enforcing the ban.

"We need to be as thorough as possible so that we do not end up in situations where" 100 percent know how to act, "he said.

For example, he was not sure if Asian tourists who had one Wear mask against pollution, are affected by the ban.

France – with the largest Muslim community in the EU – as Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have imposed some restrictions on the facial veil in public.

France controversial ban in 2011 has contributed to a further alienation that many Muslims were attacking the streets on women who also wore legal headscarves

(Report by Emil Gjerding Nielson, edited by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Mark Heinrich) [19659021]
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