A few days ago, Austria followed in the footsteps of France, Belgium and many other European countries by enforcing a burqa ban, prohibiting Muslim women from wearing the outer garment used to cover themselves.

The difference with Austria? The law is expected to affect just 150 women.

According to QZ, that's 0.03 percent of the overall Muslim population in Austria and only 0.002 percent of the entire population of the country. 

The law was implemented on October 1, subjecting Muslim women to a $177 fine for violations.

The new legislation doesn't just ban the face veil worn by Muslim women, but all face coverings, with a few exceptions.

Niqabs and burqas are banned completely whilst surgical masks, ski masks and clown makeup can be worn under certain circumstances.

According to The Telegraph, a woman wearing a niqab was told to remove her veil by two police officers in Zell am See, a city south of Salzburg, this week.

The measures, similar to those in other European Union countries, will also apply to visitors, even though a large number of Arab tourists holiday in the Alpine country.

Austria's president opposed the decision

alexander van der bellen burga ban
Alexander Van der Bellen, State President of Austria Source: Wikipedia

Austria's decision to ban the burqa is part of a wider plan to "integrate migrants", which requires them to sign up for classes to learn the German language. 

The President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, opposed the law, saying "it is every woman’s right to always dress how she wants."

Bellen, a left-wing former Green Party leader, has fought against the rise of Islamophobia in Europe several times before. 

In April, he called on all women to wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslims.

The burqa ban came into effect just before the general election on October 15, which could see the far-right Freedom Party take lead.

Carla Amina Baghajati, a rights activist and spokeswoman for the Austrian Islamic Religious Authority, talked about the consequences the law may have on maintaining an open and free society.

"They believe that they are 'freeing these women' and that they're taking action to secure the identity of Austria, but this is hypocritical as the idea of an open society is that everybody has the liberty to act and dress as they please as long as nobody else is harmed," Baghajati told Al Jazeera.

Despite the fact that the law also bans non-religious face coverings, it has received heavy criticism for being indirectly targeting Muslim women specifically.

In March, Europe's highest court – the European Court of Justice – ruled in favour of workplaces banning religious attire, saying that it did not constitute discrimination as long as one particular religion or ideology was not targeted. 

"To create a law to target 150 women shows exactly how obsessed the world is with Muslim women's bodies."

Others resorted to sarcasm

Jokes ensued... to make a point...

On priorities

An "attack on religious freedom"