Muslim full face veil to be banned in public places in Austria

Austria is planning to ban Islamic full-face veils in courts, schools and other public places.

The prohibition will apply to the niqab and burqa, the full-face or face-and-body coverings worn by some Muslim women.

It comes as part of a package of reforms drawn up by the country's governing coalition to counter the rise of the far-right Freedom Party, which has topped opinion polls for months.

"We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication. Full-body veils in public spaces stand against that and will therefore be prohibited," the agreement said.

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.

The French parliament passed an act more than six years ago that made France the first European Union country to ban the niqab and burqa in public places.

Belgium and some parts of Switzerland followed France's lead and similar bans have been considered in other European countries.