A total of 23 people have been fined in the course of the year that elapsed since Denmark imposed its much-debated burqa ban last August, the newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad reported.
The ban that came into effect last year imposed a fine of DKK 1,000 ($150 for first-time offences on individuals wearing Islamic garments such as the burqa, which covers a person's entire face, and the niqab, which only shows the eyes, as well as other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas worn by football hooligans and protesters.
According to Claus Oxfeldt of the Danish police, the first year has been “unproblematic” and that the fines have been written without conflicts.
The effectiveness the burqa ban is difficult to measure given the low number of fines issued, said Margit Warburg, a scholar of sociology and religion at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies.
“Based on 23 fines, you just can’t say whether the ban works as intended. What if the women don’t go out very much? What if no-one calls the police? Or it could be because people actually have removed their niqab. In reality, we don’t know”, Warburg told Kristeligt Dagblad.
According to her estimate, the number of women who don face-covering Islamic veils in Denmark doesn't exceed 200 niqab wearers, around half of whom are converts to Islam. Wearers of the burqa are even fewer and perhaps non-existent, Warburg noted.
Overall, the ban has resulted in 39 fines being handed out over the past year. According to the national police statistics, the remainder of the fines was awarded for for wearing masks, hoods, shawls, balaclavas and even sunglasses in such a way that covered the face.
While Danish People's Party MP Peter Skaarup scolded the police for failing to enforce the law with full severity, the left-wing support parties to the current Social Democrats government slammed the ban as “foolish, silly, and a waste of police time” demanding it should be lifted
Last year, the ban split both wings of the Danish political spectrum and was ultimately passed by a bloc-crossing majority stretching from the right-wing Danish People's Party to the left-wing Social Democrats. The ban also triggered protests in the Muslim neighbourhoods of Denmark's largest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus.
The ban's proponents suggested the ban would prevent suppression of women’s rights. The Justice Ministry stressed that neither the burqa nor the niqab were “compatible with the values and the sense of community in Danish society”. Critics, by contrast, suggested it infringed on religious freedom and was discriminatory toward Muslim women.
Violations of the ban are punishable by a fine of DKK 1,000 for a first-time offence, DKK 2,000 ($300) for the second time, DKK 5,000 ($750) for the third time and DKK 10,000 ($1,500) from the fourth time onwards.
Islam is Denmark's largest minority religion. According to a 2018 estimate, over 300.000 people or 5.3 percent of the Danish population are Muslim.