On 30 September 2016, Bulgaria’s parliament has approved a nationwide law banning the wearing of face-covering veils from most public places. Under the new law, the garment will be banned in public institutions, schools, areas of administrative and public services. People who do not follow the ban face fines of up to 1,500 levs ($858) as well as suspension of social benefits.
The legislation was pushed by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition and approved despite opposition from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms Turkish minority party, which accused the other political forces of “sowing religious intolerance”. The ruling party said the ban has nothing to do with religious outfits but only aimed at boosting national security and allowing better video surveillance.
Rights group Amnesty International criticized the ban. “This law is part of a disturbing trend of intolerance, xenophobia and racism in Bulgaria,” the group’s Europe director John Dalhuisen said in a statement.
Bulgaria’s mostly centuries-old Muslim community, dating back to Ottoman times, makes up around 13 percent of the population, mostly in the Turkish minority.
Hostility towards Muslims has grown in Bulgaria, a major gateway for refugees trying to reach Europe from Turkey, with human rights groups criticizing the country for its harsh treatment of refugees.
France and Belgium have both banned the full-face veil and Switzerland’s lower house this week narrowly approved a draft bill on a nationwide ban. In August 2016, Germany’s interior minister came out in favor of a partial ban.
France also this summer embroiled in a row over bans on the burkini, a full-body Islamic swimsuit, in resorts around the Riviera. For more on burkini ban in France: