Danish government backs veil ban

A majority of parliament is ready if necessary to ban face-covering Muslim niqab veils after a family care worker refused to remove hers on the job. Politicians at parliament are prepared to give employers the right to ban Muslim niqab and burka veils for employees as a result of yet another incident involving the culture clash between conservative Islam and the West.

Odense municipality requested that the Ministry of Consumer and Family Affairs rule on a case where a Muslim woman refused to remove her veil for her job as a family care worker. Odense indicated it was not certain whether it had the authority to reject the woman as a legitimate caretaker on the grounds of her veil under the existing provisions.

Politicians had already been in an uproar over an incident last week where a Muslim parliamentary candidate indicated she would continue to wear her headscarf if she were elected. The niqab covers all of the wearer’s face except the eyes.

Carina Christensen, the Conservative family affairs minister, indicated she would not get involved in the case, which angered many parliamentary members. Conservative leader Bendt Bendtsen made it clear that his party would not accept family care employees hiding their faces from their charges. “We say no to burkas and veils in family care. Care workers are role models and accordingly must promote a proper image of women,” Bendtsen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Bendtsen has the backing of the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who believes public institutions should be able to determine the dress of their employees. “The burka does not belong in family day care nor in public care institutions,” Rasmussen told Politiken newspaper. “We will naturally ensure that there are provisions in the law that allows Odense municipality to forbid the veil.” “I personally believe it’s quite fair that children should be able to see who is caring for them,” said the prime minister.

The far-left Red-Green Alliance also understood the need to have strict regulations in the matter, but did not commit to supporting any change in the law. “This is neither about special treatment or religion. It is a well-founded desire to stress that it is important in family care situations to see the caretaker’s facial expressions,” said Jørgen Arbo-Baehr, the party’s integration spokesperson.

Copenhagen Post, 3 May 2007