Muslim headscarves in Europe: The battle heats up

European governments are increasingly pursuing bans on headscarves worn in public by Muslim women.


Some political leaders in Europe view the traditional veils worn by those of the Islamic faith as a threat to national identity, a barrier to communication, or even a safety concern.

Already several countries have laws or proposals in place that ban the veils in some fashion.

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In France, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has shown disdain for the public display of this religious and cultural symbol.

"I'm not waging a religious war," Le Pen said. "It's clear that in France, everyone has the right to practice their religion, to worship as they choose. My war is against Islamic fundamentalism."

Le Pen wishes to ban all religious symbols in the country. In addition, if she became president, she said Sikhs would not be allowed to wear turbans. "But we don't have a lot of Sikhs in France," Le Pen said. "Which is good news."

She said Jewish yarmulkes should not be worn in public either.

This type of discussion is not new to the country, as France has banned headscarves and other religious symbols in schools since 2004.

Other European countries have made recent restrictive moves as well.

Government officials in Austria announced their opposition to allowing women to wear traditional head veils in public. That occurred after the Islamic Religious Community's advisory council issued a recommendation that women start wearing a headscarf from the time of puberty onward.

"I have to say clearly: We reject an obligation to [wear] the headscarf," Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian minister for foreign affairs and integration, told the daily newspaper Osterreich, according to The Associated Press and other outlets.

Mufti Mustafa Mullaoglu, of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria, issued a declaration in February: "For female Muslims from puberty, the covering of the body, with the exception of the face, the hands, and the feet of some lawyers, is a religious commandment, and thus part of the practice of faith."

Austria already bans full-face veils in public spaces, but Austrian leaders have pressed further. "Such a position is an attack on the freedom and self-determination of women," Secretary of State Muna Duzdar said in rejecting the advisory council's position.