The government of Denmark is setting out to follow other European countries and ban Muslim traditional headwear. Left wing opposition argues that a ban would be unliberal and further oppressive of women.
The Danish centre-right government party, Venstre, decided on Friday on a common party line in favour of banning traditional Muslim headwear such as the burka and niqab, frustrating the left-wing opposition parties profusely.
“It is hypocritical to call this a fight against oppression. If you care about these women being oppressed, why would you punish them?” said the political spokesperson in the Integration Committee of the Red-Green Alliance, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen.
According to statistics, only a few hundred women in Denmark wear burkas or niqabs, half of them being converts and not traditional Muslims.
“Most converts only wear them because the most provocative thing you can do in Denmark isn’t dying you hair purple: it’s wearing a burka. The amount of time spent on discussing this headwear is absurd when you consider how small the phenomena is,” Schmidt-Nielsen said.
Holger K. Nielsen, political spokesperson on the Integration Committee of the Socialist Folk Party, agrees that a potential burka ban is purely symbolic politics.
“I don’t think what people wear should be governed. It’s symbolic politics, and I don’t like that. I believe we should solve actual problems and not spend our time on tokenism,” Holger K. Nielsen said.
The left-wing politicians both agree that the burka is a way of oppressing women, but they’re strongly opposed to the idea of having the state governing what any citizen in Danish society should wear.
Burka ban bad excuse, brings bizarre situations
After the European Court of Justice ruled that burka bans do not fall foul of freedom of expression. Austria, France, Belgium, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have banned Muslim traditional headgear.
This has led to bizarre incidents in Austria, where a man dressed as a shark got fined 150 euros for not taking the head of his costume off, as well as a woman being told to remove a scarf from her face despite her being cold.
Our police force is already understaffed, and now they’re supposed to spend their time on people masking their face? What are they going to do during ‘Fastelavn’ (Danish traditional carnival, ed.) Halloween and in the autumn and winter when people are cold and likely to cover their faces?” said Schmidt-Nielsen.
The member of the party furthest to the left in the Danish parliament strongly believes that a burka ban being a safety measure is a lame excuse.
“If the police assess that they need to have a person removing cloth from their face to see their face, it is already within their power to do so,” Schmidt-Nielsen argues.