Austria’s Burqa Ban Leads to Police Raid on Lego Ninja Mascot

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Austria’s ban on face-covering burqas went into effect on October 1. There are only about 150 women in Austria who wear burqas, but the ban appears to be affecting a lot more than just those women. This weekend Austrian police raided a LEGO store over a woman in a LEGO ninja costume.

Austria approved the burka ban in May, and it came into effect at the beginning of this month. While the ban was clearly intended to target Muslim women, the law had to appear to be religiously neutral to be constitutional. So instead of banning burqas specifically, the ban says that a person’s face must be visible from hairline to jaw when in public. Failure to completely reveal one’s face in public is punishable by a $176 (150 Euros) fine on the spot.

And that’s how the LEGO ninja, a “McShark” electronics shop employee in a shark costume, a university student with a scarf around her face, and the Austrian parliament’s own mascot have wound up in disputes with the police.

The burqa ban is having unintended, not-racist consequences

According to DW, the LEGO ninja was not fined after she took off the costume’s head, on the grounds that it was part of her job and thus acceptable under the law. The shark was reportedly fined $176 because he refused to take off his shark head when the police showed up. The university student was fined $59.

The law says it should not apply to people who cover their faces for work purposes, or when it’s cold. But the law doesn’t define “cold,” and the shark guy was fined even though he was dressed as a shark for work.

The face-covering ban could also affect Halloween, and cosplayers at comic book conventions. This is all very frustrating to people who were just trying to be racist.

The head of Austria’s police union says they should probably just scrap the law.

“It is unenforceable,” he said. “The law was not written as a burqa ban for constitutional reasons and now this crap is happening.”

Banning women from wearing burqas doesn’t make women stop wearing burqas. It just confines those women to their homes and isolates them, effectively putting them under house arrest.

The law was controversial to start with. Austria president Alexander Van der Bellen opposed it, saying, “It is every woman’s right to always dress how she wants.”

What do you think of this burqa ban? Let us know in the comments.

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(Image: iStockPhoto / CTRPhotos)