Ban on burqas debated in Estonia

Estonia might ban burqas after proposal raised at cabinet meeting on Thursday

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Estonian Social Security Minister Margus Tsahkna proposed to ban immigrants from wearing burqastraditional garments for women in some parts of the Islamic world which cover the body and face, for security reasons during a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The measure was proposed mainly to help in identifying migrants who have arrived in the country and to prevent possible criminal acts, as the burqa only reveals a woman's eyes.

Tsahkna also proposed the ban to push people from different cultures and origins to integrate into society.

"The rules must be set before similar issues and problems start arising that have emerged in various European countries regarding the issue of cultural diversity. Regulation of these issues afterwards is very complex. What concerns wearing facial covering in public spaces, it is inherent in our society that people have to be identifiable," Tsahkna told the news website Postimees Online.

Tsahkna said that it is necessary to make rules known and maintain safety in the country for citizens as well as for people who arrive seeking asylum. He insisted on the law even though he said that no problems regarding the issue have arisen so far.

The mufti of Estonia, Ildar Muhhamedsin, has spoken against the notion of banning burqas in the country, saying that such a proposition is discriminatory. Speaking to Estonian Public Broadcasting  (ERR), he said that the move would limit freedom of religious expression.

Tsahkna told the Estonian Eesti Paevaleht newspaper that no final decision over the law has been made yet.

"This concerns the security of the social area… There is no final decision on the issue yet but the Justice ministry will analyse which way of solving the problem will fit us."

Estonia is not the first country to grapple with the debate over the burqa. The Dutch government and France have already passed bills limiting the wearing of burqas in public places.

TRTWorld and agencies