Bulgarian town bans face veil in public


A Bulgarian town that is home to a Roma minority practising an ultraconservative form of Islam on Wednesday banned Islamic face veils in public, a first in the country.

The town council of Pazardzhik in southern Bulgaria voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ban in all administrative buildings, schools, shops and on the street. Driving with a full-face veil, or niqab, was also outlawed.

The council justified the measure by saying that a veil impeded identification. Fines of 300 leva ($175) can be levied, rising to 1,000 leva for repeat offenders.

Bulgaria’s centuries-old Muslim community, dating back to conversions during Ottoman times, makes up around 13 per cent of the 7.4-million population of mainly Orthodox Christians.

Muslim women in Bulgaria generally wear just a simple scarf to cover their hair, but recently there has been a rise in the number of women from Pazardzhik’s Roma Muslim minority wearing the niqab.