Danish government urges use of existing rules to suppress veil

Denmark’s government said Thursday that face-covering Muslim veils don’t belong in Danish society but no ban is needed because their use can be limited under existing rules.

The center-right government said the burqa – an all-covering dress – and the niqab face veil are “diametrically opposed” to the values on which Danish society is built. It called for the full use of existing rules that allow schools, as well as both public and private employers, to demand that students, teachers and workers show their faces.

“The use of the burqa or niqab … deprives women of the right to interact in the Danish society on equal footing with men and women who do not wear the burqa or niqab,” the government said.

The statement followed months of discussion about whether Denmark should ban burqas and niqabs – a debate also taking place elsewhere in Europe. While the debate in Europe is widespread, use of the veils is not. A report commissioned by the Danish government found that only two or three women in the country wear burqas, and perhaps 200 wear niqabs.

The nationalist Danish People’s Party – a key ally of the minority government – criticized the government’s stance and said stronger action was needed to curb the use of face-covering veils. “It is a pity that the government won’t do anything about it,” deputy party leader Peter Skaarup said.

Associated Press, 28 January 2010