Austrian politicians call for ban on full body veils

Vienna: Austrian conservative politicians called for a ban on full-body veils, saying the veils would hinder women to integrate into the mainly Catholic Austrian society.

Austria’s Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz from the centrist People’s Party, who plans to introduce a new integration law next year, said religious symbols such as the burqa were an issue that needed to be discussed. Public debate about a ban on full-body veils was ignited in several European countries after three French Mediterranean cities banned body-covering Muslim burkini swimwear, saying the burkini defies French laws on secularism.

In Austria, Islam is the second-most widely professed religion, practised by seven per cent of the population or around 600,000 people, according to the Islamic Religious Community. The country has been spared the kind of Islamist attacks suffered by Germany, France and Belgium. But fears and tensions have been growing over the past months, fuelled by anti-migrant campaigns of the popular right-wing Freedom Party (FPO). The head of the FPO, which hopes to provide the first far-right head of state in the European Union after the re-run of the presidential elections on Oct 2, said it was about time to ban the full-body veil.