21:15 GMT08 March 2021
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    The Austrian government announced Wednesday its plan to ban headscarves for girls in kindergartens and primary schools across the country under the “Children Protection Act.”

    According to Austrian Education Minister Heinz Fassmann, the draft law, which would go into effect this summer, is a "symbolic act." 

    Heinz-Christian Strache, who leads the Freedom Party of Austria, a right-wing populist and national-conservative political party, commented on the potential ban over the weekend, stating that "girls under the age of 10 must be protected" and be able to "integrate and develop freely," thelocal.at reported.

    Similarly, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right People's Party, a Christian democratic and conservative political party, also supported the notion of a ban.

    "We want all girls in Austria to have the same opportunities," he recently told Austria's Oel radio. He also added that he wants to avoid the formation of "parallel societies."

    The local Austrian Kurier newspaper reported that the central European country's Education Ministry was unable to provide them with statistics on how many girls in kindergartens and primary schools currently wear the headscarf. Most girls do not wear headscarves until puberty, although they can be worn by girls before their teenage years.

    Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman for the Islamic Religious Community in Austria, noted recently that the controversy over the headscarf is a "marginal issue" that had been given excessive attention, thelocal.at reported.

    She also added that schools impacted by the issue should engage in "dialogue." 

    The proposed law follows an earlier "burqa ban" Austria issued in October. The law prohibits the public wearing of the niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes, as well as the burqa — the most concealing of all Islamic veils, famous for being mandated by the Taliban in Afghanistan — which covers the entire face with a net-like cloth. The law also outlaws wearing clown masks, balaclavas and ski masks in public.

    Although the legislation does not specifically single out Muslim women, it is perceived to be targeted at the conservative clothing worn by some Muslim women. Violators of the law could face a fine as high as $180.

    Other European countries have introduced similar facial veil bans, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Bulgaria.


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