Police in Denmark fined a 28-year-old woman for wearing a full face veil, the first time a punishment was meted out since it became illegal on Wednesday.
According to local media, police issued the fine in the city of Horsholm, in the northeastern region of Nordsjaelland, after being called to a shopping centre on Friday.
The woman in the veil encountered another female who tried to tear it off, resulting in a minor scuffle.
“During the fight her niqab [veil] came off, but by the time we arrived she had put it back on again,” police officer David Borchersen said, according to Danish news agency Ritzau.
The woman was fined $156 for wearing a full face veil in public and asked to either take the garment off or leave the shopping centre. She chose to leave.
The fine was the result of a new law banning all face-covering clothing that went into effect on August 1.
Danish legislators passed the law presented by Denmark’s centre-right governing coalition last May. The law was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party, leading to a 75 to 30 vote in favour.
Violating the regulation results in a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156). Repeated violators will be fined up to 10,000 kroner ($1,560).
When the ban went into effect, dozens of women came out in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, to protest it.
The Danish government said the regulation is not aimed at any religion. But the law – popularly known as the “burqa ban” – is seen by some as directed at Muslim women who choose to wear the face veil in public.
Following the Danish vote in May, Amnesty International’s Gauri van Gulik said in a statement: “All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs.
“This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa. If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly.”
The European Court of Human Rights last year upheld a Belgian ban on wearing the face veil in public.
France was the first European country to ban the veil in public places with a law that took effect in 2011.
Lena Larsen, project director of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the University of Oslo, said illegalising clothing is “polarising” and “not productive”.
“I don’t think that this [law] will obtain any productive aim of integration or peaceful coexistence,” she told Al Jazeera in an interview from Oslo, Norway’s capital.
“What we are witnessing is an expression of Danish identity politics, legalising an ethical concern and we are seeing polarisation,” Larsen added. “Women who are considered to be oppressed and in need to be saved from unwanted social control – they are actually strong voices for wearing the face veil with arguments of personal freedom to choose whatever they want to wear.”