Denmark’s centre-right drops plans to ban the burka
Copenhagen — Denmark’s Conservative Party shelved a proposal to ban the burka, a head-to-toe Islamic veil, after lawyers warned it could violate human rights, the justice minister said Thursday.
The centre-right party is the junior member in a minority coalition government with the Liberals, which opposed banning the full body garment worn by some Muslim women.
Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen, a Conservative, said government lawyers had advised a ban could breach the European Convention of Human Rights and the Danish constitution.
"It is clear to me as minister of justice … that we cannot sign up to a project that raises such legal issues," he said in a statement.
But Mikkelsen added that a working group had been set up by the government to explore "other ways of fighting against the burka’s spreading popularity" in public places.
"The burka represents a view of women that has no place in Denmark," he said in the statement.
Plans to ban the burka, first put forward by the Syrian-born Conservative lawmaker Naser Khader, have sparked controversy among politicians and the public alike.
But Khader, the Conservatives’ spokesman on integration, staunchly defended his proposals at his party’s annual conference last week.
"The burka is a symbol of repression from men who want to control women 100 percent," he told delegates. "Why are there no men who have to cover themselves with a blindfold over their eyes?"
His proposal received strong support from the far-right Danish People’s Party, a key ally of the coalition government in the Danish parliament.
Denmark’s 200,000 Muslims make up 3.5 percent of the population and are the country’s second largest religious community after the state-run Lutheran Church.
The ban on the traditional Islamic garment is also being debated elsewhere in Europe.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently said the burka was "not welcome" in France as it clashes with its secular tradition. He set up a commission to look into whether it should be banned.