France was the first European state to enact a full-face veil ban in April 2011. Belgium followed three months later. Then, in 2015, the Dutch cabinet approved a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils, and in 2016 Merkel endorsed such a ban in Germany. Most recently, the Austrian government legislated to prohibit the wearing of the face veils in public areas. This paper will explore these five cases to better understand why the wearing of face-covering veils in the public sphere has been outlawed. It will focus on the political context that has shaped policy in this area (and especially pressures from right-wing forces), and on the role the media played in the debate and how this affected public discourse and public opinion.
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