Man in shark costume falls foul of Austria’s new burqa ban

Man in shark costume falls foul of Austria’s new burqa ban

new burqa ban
new burqa ban

A new burqa ban in Austria had unforeseen consequences for a man dressed in a shark party costume.

The man, who has not been named, has been fined €150 ($227) because the shark mask contravened the ban, which forbids any form of facial covering, from niqabs and burqas to surgical masks, ski masks and clown make-up.

He is not the only victim of police who have strictly applied the new law.

Others who have had a run in with police in recent days include a woman cyclist who wrapped her scarf around her face against the cold, and street musicians performing in animal masks.

The ban, which came into effect on October 1, was introduced because of concerns over burqas and Islamic full-face veils. Since then some Muslim women have been forced by police to remove their facial coverings.

“The shark was fined because he refused to take his mask off,” a police spokesman, told Heute newspaper.

There has been considerable debate over the ban, with issues of immigration and integration set to dominate Austrian elections at the weekend.

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, is poised to become part of a coalition after the October 15 vote with the conservatives expected to gain around a third of the vote. Both parties campaign with tough rhetoric on fighting immigration and closed Islamic communities.

But this week it also met with some unplanned controversy. The party had to suspend an official over allegations he used a Nazi salute.

Austrian newspaper Der Standard reported, without citing names, that an independent local councillor in the province of Styria complained to her mayor about having seen her Freedom Party colleague raising his right arm in Nazi-fashion and saying the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler”.

Owning objects or making statements that glorify Nazism is illegal in Austria, where Hitler was born and which was annexed into his Third Reich.

Josef Riemer, the Freedom Party parliamentarian for the constituency, said in an emailed statement the party was taking the accusations very seriously and had suspended the official’s membership until the case was resolved. He added the official rejects the allegations and had already hired a lawyer.

The Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis but says it has left its past behind, has repeatedly thrown out officials in recent years over Nazi allegations.

Party chief Heinz-Christian Strache, who says anti-Semitism is a crime, has said Christian Europe shares an enemy with Israel in political Islam.

Austria’s anti-fascist Mauthausen Komitee, named after a Nazi concentration camp, published a brochure this year detailing 60 cases of Nazi-related incidents involving Freedom Party members.

The next Austrian government is scheduled to assume the European Union’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2018.