Officers flocked to a Lego store in Vienna responding to a report of a violation of the law forbidding full face veils. Over the past days, it also had police approaching a man in a shark suit and the Austrian parliament’s mascot.
The incident in the Austrian capital happened on Friday after law enforcement received an anonymous complaint that the law in question had been violated in the store. The officers responded to the call, only to find out that the apparent “criminal” was a woman dressed in a costume of a Red Ninja. She was not issued a fine, though; police said they established she concealed her face as part of her “professional occupation.”
The incident – the like of which risks becoming a commonplace in Austria – came after the country’s parliament backed a law banning people from covering their faces in public.
The law was part of a wider legislation – approved earlier in May – that enables compulsory integration of foreigners and encourages immigrants to engage in unpaid public work before getting a work permit. The so-called “burqa ban” – although not described as such in the legislation – had already led to a chain of bizarre incidents that left many in Austria scratching their heads.
Earlier in October, the Austrian parliament’s official mascot Lesko drew officers’ attention. A man wearing the rabbit suit was prevented from posing for children shooting videos during an open-door event ahead of Austria’s Independence Day, Kurier reported.
Another ludicrous encounter occurred in Vienna when a promoter dressed as a shark to advertise a new McShark electronics store was fined €150 ($ 176) after he refused to take off his shark head, Deutsche Welle reported.
Interestingly, police have argued against the law themselves. “It is unenforceable. The law was not written as a burqa ban for constitutional reasons and now this rubbish is unfolding,” Hermann Greylinger, the head of the Austrian police union, told OE24 TV channel.
Those on the other side of the debate resorted to some offbeat tactics, too. In September, Rachid Nekkaz, a French-Algerian businessman, reached out to Austrian Muslim women, promising all burka-related fines will be on him.
“I am reaching out to all women in Europe and especially to women in Austria who voluntarily wear the burqa, I will always be there and pay the fines,” Nekkaz, a French property dealer and a millionaire, who says he is not personally a “face veil advocate,” told Austrian Servus TV in an interview seen by Reuters.