Bulgarian parliament adopted a law banning full-face veils wearing in public, becoming, along with France and Belgium, one of the few European countries where such a decision has been made, reports AFP. However, the mosques are exempted from the prohibition.
Those who not comply with the law risk 200 leva fines (100 euros) for the first offense and 1,500 leva (750 euros) for each of the following deviations. The Niqab, which has not been worn traditionally by the Muslim minority in the country, he appeared three years ago in a Roma neighborhood of Pazardzhik (central Bulgaria), a self-proclaimed stronghold of Imam Moussa Ahmed, convicted of radical Islamist propaganda. The Niquab was then spread to other regions.
“The law is not directed against religious communities and is not repressive,” senior GERB lawmaker Krasimir Velchev said. “We made a very good law for the safety of our children.” According to the law, clothing hiding the face may not be worn in government offices, schools, cultural institutions and places of public recreation, but exceptions are allowed for health or professional reasons.
Pazardjik city has already adopted a rule banning face veils in the village. Eight women have been fined so far in this village in southern Bulgaria.
“Women in Bulgaria should be free to dress as they please and to wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs,” Amnesty International’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen said. “Legitimate security concerns can be met with targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high risk locations and not through a blanket discriminatory ban such as this.”
Many Bulgarians are concerned that the migrant inflows into Europe may pose a threat to their predominantly Orthodox Christian culture and help radicalize part of the country’s long-established Muslim minority. Bulgaria, an Orthodox-majority country, has a significant Muslim minority (13% of the population), formed mainly of Turkish and Roma ethnics.