Latvia mulls face veil ban - but only 3 women wear them

The Latvian justice ministry has called the ban on niqabs a “preventive measure” to protect Latvian culture

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Latvia is looking to ban the niqab, a face covering veil worn by some Muslim women - although only an estimated three women in the small Baltic state wear them.

Latvia's justice ministry has called the ban on niqabs a “preventive measure” to protect Latvian culture and to address security concerns while migrants pour into Europe.

Muslims number only around 1,000 out of a population of two million in the ex-Soviet state.

Liga Legzdina, a 27-year-old Latvian who converted to Islam, wears the face veil every day.

She told the New York Times that “people have become much more aggressive than before,” noting that insults have become common on her daily commute in the capital Riga.

She regularly deflects statements from strangers such as ‘go back where you came from’ by replying in perfect Latvian.

Although a member of the European Union, which mandates that member states take in a certain number of migrants, Latvia has not been keen to open its doors. Latvian authorities have now agreed to accept up to 776 refugees over the next two years. Only six have arrived.

With a culture that is unused to Muslims, public debate on housing and integration have been far overtaken by fears of an Islamic “invasion,” the New York Times reported.

French controversy

Latvia is not the only European country to consider cracking down on niqabs. France has had a ban in place on the face-covering veil since 2011.

On Wednesday, a Paris university celebrated what it called “World Hijab Day,” in an effort to end the stigma around women who wear the hair-covering veil.

The group’s Facebook account invited fellow students to don the headscarf in order to “demystify the veil.”

But some saw red at the event, held at Sciences Po, who said it went against French values.

Carla Sasiela, the head of the university’s student union, told English-language news site The Local that the event was “a provocation,” and a “total contradiction of the values of the Republic and the respect for women’s rights.”

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