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Austrian coalition deal includes ban on Muslim face veils

The ban is a part of the 'integration law' included in the coalition's new action plan, which was negotiated by the representatives of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPO) and the conservative People's Party (OVP), which together form the ruling centrist coalition.

The Freedom Party, which has led polls for months and whose candidate came second in presidential elections past year, has campaigned against the perceived Islamization of the country and called for a halt to immigration.

"We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication".

The proposed Muslim face veil ban mostly applies to the burka and niqab - the veils that cover the whole face or leave only the eyes open.

In December a year ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on the full-face veil as she launched her re-election bid for a fourth term in office.

Meanwhile, any ban would need the Austrian Parliament's approval to be enforced.

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The country's coalition also agreed to prohibit police officers, judges, magistrates and public prosecutors from wearing head scarves in the interest of appearing "ideologically and religiously neutral" while serving the state.

Now, about 600,000 Muslims, including those, who arrived during the refugee crisis, live in Austria, accounting for about 7 percent of its population.

It also comes amid growing concerns of harassment against Muslims around the world following US President Donald Trump's temporary ban on citizens from some Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

Women in Austria will no longer be allowed to wear the full-face veil in public spaces, the country's ruling coalition has decided.

France, Belgium, and Bulgaria have all banned the burqa in public places, while several localities in Switzerland and Italy have implemented regional bans.

The 35-page programme also includes beefing up surveillance and security measures, obliging migrants granted the right to stay to sign an "integration contract" and a "statement of values".

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