Danish burqa ban comes into effect amid protests

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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. "This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa", said Fotis Filippou, the human rights campaign group's deputy director for Europe. Few Muslim women in Denmark wear the full face veils.

Under the new measures wearing a body-length burqa, which covers a person's entire face, or the niqab veil, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156).

However, the inclusion of the burqa and niqab has prompted accusations of infringing on a woman's right to wear what she wants, and has been met with strong objections from both Muslim and non-Muslim residents of the Nordic country.

The ban, which the Danish government enacted in May, affects all form of face veils, including burqa, niqab, full-face balaclavas, hats, caps, scarves, masks, helmets, full-length suits and artificial beards.

On Aug. 1, the ban will become the law of the land and many Muslim women and non-Muslim women are planning to wear face coverings at the rally.

"If the intention of this law was to protect women's rights it fails abjectly".

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld Belgium's ban on the wearing of face veils in public, ruling that the country could be allowed to implement it in order to enhance people's ability to "live together" pursuant to the "protection of rights of others".

"Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates women's rights to freedom of expression and religion".

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First-time offenders risk a fine of 1,000 kroner (£120).

Ayah, 37, a wearer of the niqab outside the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

"It is incompatible with the values of the Danish society or the respect for the community to keep the face hidden when meeting each other in the public space", Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said at the time.

A smaller demonstration arranged by "For Frihed" (For Freedom), which is pro face veil ban, also took place.

It is estimated that Muslims account for about 7 percent out of the total population of 5.6 million in Denmark.

The crowd marched towards the Bellahøj police station and called on police to focus on more important problems rather than fining people who wear veils.

France - with the largest Muslim community in the European Union - as well as Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have all imposed some curbs on face veils in public.