Denmark is the latest European country to pass a ban on full-face veils.
The law will affect just 0.2% of Muslim women in the country (at most), according to a 2013 paper estimating the number of Muslim women who wear niqabs and burqas in Denmark. The study said that of the 150 women who wear the Islamic face veil in Denmark, around half are ethnic Danes who converted to Islam.
Muslim women who wear a full-face veil are “a minority within a minority within a minority,” says the paper’s lead researcher Margit Warburg, a professor at the University of Copenhagen. She adds it isn’t particularly surprising that ethnic Danes who converted to Islam make up such a high proportion of people who wear the face veil. In all religions, converts tend to follow their faith more strictly than those born into it.
In 2009, the Danish government reached out to Warburg and her research group at the university’s Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies to carry out a study on the number of Muslim women wearing the burqa or other types of face coverings in Denmark. The report they produced—dubbed the “burqa report”(link in Danish)—concluded that a tiny proportion of Muslim women wear the face veil. A further investigation in 2013 produced the estimate of 150 women, or between 0.1% and 0.2% of Muslim women in Denmark.
Warburg says her findings didn’t ever satisfy those keen to implement a ban. For those in favor of a ban, it didn’t really matter that there is a tiny number of women wearing the Islamic face veil. They argued that if there is just one person who is being forced to do it then there should be a law, Warburg says.
While the wording of the new legislation does not specifically mention Muslim women—it cites “anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public” as grounds for a penalty—the law has been widely dubbed a “burqa ban.” People who violate the rule will face a fine of 1,000 kroner ($157). The law, which comes into effect in August, was passed in parliament by 75 votes to 30.
The number of Muslim women wearing Islamic face veils is minuscule across Europe. Various studies estimate that the Islamic face veil is worn by 0.03% of the Austrian Muslim population, 0.04% of the French Muslim population, and, at most, 0.05% of the Muslim population in the Netherlands. Despite this, like Denmark, a ban on wearing full or partial face veils in public has passed in all three countries.