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Bulgaria parliament bans full-face veils in public places

People who do not follow the ban in Bulgaria face fines of up to 1,500 Levs ($860) as well as suspension of social benefits. Photograph: (Getty)

Reuters Sofia, Bulgaria Sep 30, 2016, 01.15 PM (IST)

Bulgaria’s parliament today banned the wearing of full-face veils from most public places.

According to the law, face veils cannot be worn in government offices, schools, cultural institutions and places of public recreation, but exceptions are allowed for health or professional reasons.

People who do not follow the ban in Bulgaria face fines of up to 1,500 Levs ($860) as well as suspension of social benefits.

The legislation, pushed by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition and passed on Friday, echoes similar moves in a small number of European Union countries such as France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms refused to take part in the vote, saying the restriction would incite ethnic and religious intolerance.

The ruling centre-right party said the ban has nothing to do with religious outfits but only aimed at boosting national security and allowing better video surveillance.

"The law is not directed against religious communities and is not repressive," ruling GERB's senior lawmaker Krasimir Velchev said. "We made a very good law for the safety of our children."

Islam is the largest minority religion in Bulgaria.

Muslim women in the country traditionally do not wear niqabs or burqas, except for a small group in the Roma community who have recently started wearing it, sparking tensions in the city of Pazarzhik.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)

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