Today the Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) discussed prohibiting of concealment of the face in Estonia, and decided to continue looking for a legislative solution on how to ban the wearing of face covering in public space.
“The experts the Committee has consulted said that prohibiting of face covering in public space would not be restricting the religious freedom or human rights of the people, but would help increase security and reduce security risks,” Chairman of the Committee Jaanus Karilaid said. He added that several European countries have imposed face covering bans in various ways and to a different extent.
The Legal Affairs Committee discussed the Bill on Amendments to the Law Enforcement Act (312 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction. The purpose of the Bill is to ban the wearing in public of burqa and niqab, which originate from the Arab cultural space.
“Wearers of burqa cause justified fear among the people of Europe, because you can never be sure if it is a woman or a suicide terrorist with bad intentions and a bomb belt,” the initiators of the Bill write in the explanatory memorandum of the Bill. “By prohibiting the veils and scarves that hide the face, the society gives a clear signal that certain special customs of the immigrant people who have arrived in Estonia cannot be more important than local traditions, good practice and the laws.”
According to Karilaid, the prevailing opinion in the Committee was that it was not right to amend the law just in regard to the face coverings originating from the Arab cultures. “The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction was ready to withdraw the Bill, and it was agreed that in about a month, Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu would submit his proposals for solving the issue of face covering, and the Committee will deal again with the issue then,” he said.
Deputy Chairman of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction Henn Põlluaas admitted that the purpose of their faction was to increase the security of the people of Estonia. “If a better wording and solution, from the legislative point of view, is found for banning of face covering, then we see no need to stick to our Bill at any price,” he remarked.
The sitting of the Legal Affairs Committee was attended by Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu, theologian Peeter Espak, Adviser of the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of the Interior, religious historian Ringo Ringvee and Adviser of the Public Law Division of the Minister of Justice Andrus Jürgens.