Hundreds of Danes rallied in Copenhagen on Wednesday in protest at a new ban on the wearing of face veils in public, accusing the government of infringing women’s right to dress as they choose.
Denmark’s parliament enacted the ban in May, joining France and other EU countries in what some politicians say is upholding secular and democratic values.
The protesters, many wearing the niqab veil or the body-length burqa, began a march from the central district of Norrebro to Bellahoj police station on the outskirts of the city.
Demonstrators, often with children in tow, included veiled and non-veiled Muslim women and non-Muslim Danes with their faces covered. No incidents were reported.
“We need to send a signal to the government that we will not bow to discrimination and a law that specifically targets a religious minority,” said Sabina, 21, who asked that her full name not be used.
She is one of between 150 and 200 Muslim women – 0.1% of those in the country – who wear either the niqab or the burqa on a daily basis. Muslims account for about 5% of Denmark’s population of 5.7 million.
Under the law, police will be able to instruct women to remove their veils or order them to leave public areas. The country’s justice minister, Søren Pape Poulsen, said officers would fine them and tell them to go home.
Fines will range from 1,000 Danish krone (£120) for a first offence to 10,000 krone for a fourth.
Despite its generic wording, the legislation has widely been interpreted as discriminating against Denmark’s Muslims and violating women’s right to freedom of expression and religion.