Full-face Muslim veils will be banned in public places in Austria, Chancellor Christian Kerr announced Monday.
The ban is part of a legislative reform package agreed upon by the governing centrist coalition.
“We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication. Full-body veils in public spaces stand against that and will therefore be prohibited,” said a statement by the coalition, which is seeking to counter the growing far-right Freedom Party.
Kerr said veil ban will take effect over the next 18 months.
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Under the agreement between the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Party, immigrants settling in Austria also will be required to sign an “integration contract” and a “statement of values.”
“Those who are not prepared to accept Enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society,” says the coalition statement.
The agreement bans police officers, judges and magistrates, and public prosecutors from wearing headscarves so that they will appear “ideologically and religiously neutral.”
The agreement does not address other public employees.
However, Kerr said he wanted to avoid “giving 600,000 Muslims in Austria the feeling that they are not part of our society.”
Earlier this month, Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Freedom Party, called for “an effective law banning political Islam.”
Strache said migrants hold “misogynistic, anti-liberal and … a fascist worldview.”
“Let us put an end to this policy of Islamization,” he said. “Otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end.”
Strache said that much like the ban on Nazi symbols in force in Austria, a ban on Muslim symbols should be imposed.
Those comments followed a spree of sexual assaults and harassment that marred the nation’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Police reported several of the victims described their attackers as “foreign” or “North African.”
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