A woman wearing a niqab has become the first person in Denmark to be fined for violating a new law banning garments covering the face in public places. The police was called to a shopping centre in Hørsholm Midtpunkt, around 15 miles north of Copenhagen, on Friday, to confront two women causing disturbance when they saw that one of them was wearing a niqab. The 28-year-old woman was fined 1,000 Danish kroner (£120) and told to either remove the veil or leave the centre. She opted to leave.
Police spokesperson David Borchersen said a fight broke out after the Muslim woman walked into the other woman, who tried to rip her face veil off, at the top of some escalators. He stressed that the assault had nothing to do with the niqab. Mr Borcher said: ‘During the fight her niqab came off, but by the time we arrived she had put it back on again.’ Both women have been charged for fighting in public, but the Muslim woman was also fined for failing to obey the new law.
Mr Borcher said: ‘We don’t start taking the niqab or burka ban off people. She was asked to remove the niqab or leave the public place. She chose the latter.’ The police took pictures of the woman for evidence. They’re investigating CCTV footage to see if the other woman had deliberately tried to rip off the niqab.
Since 1 August, Denmark’s much-debated burka ban has provoked protests and criticism from human rights groups. It does not mention burkas and niqabs by name, but warns that anyone who wears a garment that hides their face in public will be fined, including balaclavas, fake beard and masks. The law allows people to cover their face when there is a ‘recognisable purpose’ like cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, such as using motorcycle helmets under Danish traffic rules.
First-time offenders risk a fine of 1,000 kroner while repeat offences could trigger fines of up to 10,000 kroner (£1,200) or a jail sentence of up to six months. If offenders refuse to pay the fine they can be taken to court.