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Australia state to propose law requiring face veil removal

The New South Wales (NSW) [official website] government is set to propose legislation next week that will require anyone wearing face coverings, including religious veils, to remove them if requested by police for identification purposes. Refusal could result in a $220 AUD fine with the worst potential penalties at a year in jail and a fine of $5500. The proposed law will amend the 2002 Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act [text]. The state premier, Barry O'Farrell [official website] promised that face coverings would only be removed for brief identification and that those with religious objections can go to a police station to be identified in complete privacy. The Islamic Council of NSW [advocacy website] is reportedly fine with the new regulations [AAP report].

Australia is the latest in an international trend to ban the wearing of burqas, niqabs [JURIST news archives] or full face veils in some situations. Earlier this month, an Italian parliamentary commission approved a draft law [JURIST report] that bans women from wearing full-face veils, including the Islamic burqa and niqab in public. In July, Belgium implemented a law banning women from wearing the burqa [JURIST report] in public, with violators facing the possibility of fines or up to seven days in jail. A French Muslim couple living in the UK filed a challenge [JURIST report] in June in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the French ban [materials, in French] on full face coverings. Also in June, a Spanish court upheld a city ban on veils in municipal buildings for identification and security purposes. In October, the French Constitutional Council ruled that the ban conforms with the Constitution [JURIST report]. Also in October, Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] said that the Netherlands will ban the burqa [JURIST report] as part of the government's plan to form a minority coalition. In August 2010, Austria's conservative Freedom Party [official website, in German] called for a special vote [JURIST report] on whether to ban face veils and the construction of minarets, two of the most visible symbols of the Islamic faith. In July 2010, Spain's lower house of parliament rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to ban the burqa and other full face veils by a vote of 183 to 162 with two abstaining.

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