International desk, October 01: Legislation banning full-face Muslim veils in public spaces has gone into effect in Austria.The government says the law, which says faces must be visible from the hairline to the chin, is about protecting Austrian values.
It comes ahead of a general election later this month which could see gains by the far-right Freedom Party.
Muslim groups have condemned the law, saying just a tiny minority of Austrian Muslims wear full-face veils.
The law bans Muslim veils such as the burka or niqab, but also places restrictions on the use of medical face masks and clown makeup.
An estimated 150 women wear the full burka in Austria but tourism officials have expressed fears that the measures will also deter visitors from the Gulf.
France and Belgium introduced a burka ban in 2011 and a similar measure is currently going through the Dutch parliament.German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the full-face veil should be prohibited in Germany “wherever it is legally possible”. The UK does not ban the niqab or burka.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.