‘Burqa Ban’ Marks a Hard-Line Shift in Austria’s Politics on the Eve of Elections

‘Burqa Ban’ Marks a Hard-Line Shift in Austria’s Politics on the Eve of Elections
A person passes posters of the right-wing Freedom party, FPOE, and the conservative Austrian People's Party, OEVP, Vienna, Austria, Oct.11, 2017 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

On Oct. 15, Austrians will go to the polls to elect a new government, with all signs pointing to a rightward shift in its ruling coalition. Just two weeks before the parliamentary elections, the government put into force a new law that prohibits individuals from covering their faces in public—a not-so-subtle signal to right-wing voters of the government’s stance on Muslims and the full-body burqa and other coverings worn by some Muslim women. In an email interview, Stefan Lehne, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and former director general of political affairs at the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs, explains what was behind the new law, how much resonance it will have among the voting public, and what it means for Austria’s acceptance of Muslims.

WPR: What are the origins of the “burqa ban” in Austria and how prevalent are such face coverings?

Stefan Lehne: Austria’s “Anti-Face-Veiling Act” entered into force on Oct. 1. Accordingly, in public places and buildings it is no longer allowed for people to cover facial features in such a way that they are no longer recognizable. If the person concerned refuses to uncover his or her face when asked by the police, he or she faces a penalty of up to 150 euros.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review