Bulgaria’s Pazardzhik Bans Wearing Full-Face Veils in Public Places
Pazardzhik became the first Bulgarian city to ban the wearing of veils covering the face in public places, BNR public radio broadcaster reported on Wednesday.
The city parliament approved the ban in a 39-2 vote with no abstentions, according to BNR.
The ban will apply to wearing such veils not only in buildings housing branches of local and central government but also in the streets, parks, shops and public transport vehicles. Homes and places of worship will be exempt from the ban.
The restriction, which gained popularity in Bulgaria under the name "burqa ban", refers to any type of clothing that covers the face in a way making it difficult for authorities to identify the person.
Proponents of the ban say that wearing burqas in public places poses a serious risk to security because a head veil hiding the face obstructs the identification of people.
All political parties represented in Pazardzhik Municipal Council backed the proposal with the exception of Euroroma party, which is committed to defending the interests of Roma population.
The total ban was proposed by the representatives of the National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) in the city parliament. NFSB is one of the parties within the Patriotic Front, a nationalist coalition which supports the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Parliament but has no cabinet ministers.
Before the vote, Pazardzhik Mayor Todor Popov withdrew his proposal to ban the wearing of veils in public administration buildings only.
Fines of BGN 300 (EUR 150) will be imposed to first-time offenders. Repeat offenders will face fines of BNG 1,000 (EUR 500).
The Grand Mufti’s Office of the Muslim Denomination in Bulgaria opposed the total ban in Pazardzhik, citing lack of explicit definition in the Public Order Regulation which parts of human body should be covered and which not.
The Grand Mufti’s Office said that the ban would hamper Muslim women to abide by the norms of Islam which require them to have their heads covered in public places, Focus radio station reported on Wednesday.
Last week, the Patriotic Front proposed to Parliament to make a change to the Penal Code which would introduce a nationwide ban on wearing burqas in public places.
Burqas and other finds of full veils covering most of a woman's face have gained popularity in some neighborhoods of Pazardzhik, in southern Bulgaria, and adjacent villages, where certain families have been exposed to radicalization attempts.
Patriotic Front co-chairman Krasimir Karakachanov said last week that burqas had never been typical for Bulgarian Muslims and their wearing was an attempt to split Bulgarian society.
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