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Austria: Of burqa bans and shark costumes

Austria: Of burqa bans and shark costumes

Austria s new ban on the full Islamic veil and any face-concealing item is causing confusion, with a man in a shark costume the latest to be ensnared, authorities admitted Tuesday.

“This is a new law so naturally there are certain unclear situations and grey areas that need to be ironed out,” Manfred Reinthaler from Vienna police told public radio.

The unnamed man’s career as a shark mascot may be fin-ished thanks to Austria’s new crackdown on facial coverings. 

“At the same time there is no legal precedence.”

Austria is the latest European country to ban the wearing of the full Islamic veil, known as the burqa or the niqab, in public places. The law came into force on October 1.

But in order to avoid being sued for discrimination, the government outlawed at the same time any item of clothing that covers the face.

Government guidelines set out a number of exceptions including masks and disguises at cultural events, work wear such as medical masks, and scarves in cold weather.

But the shark costume case — a mascot for the McShark computer chain — and officers reportedly stopping a girl cycling in a scarf show that some police remain bewildered.

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