Two of Denmark's ruling parties are considering upping the punishment for transgressors of the recent burqa ban from DKK 1,000 ($155) to a prison sentence, as it risks being rendered ineffective by a French-Algerian mogul previously dubbed the "Zorro of Niqab."
The Liberals and the Danish People's Party (DF), currently members of Denmark's ruling coalition, argue that the pledge by Rachid Nekkaz to pay all fines accrued under the contentious "Burqa Law" is undermining Danish law, Danish Radio reported.
According to DF's immigration and integration rapporteur, Martin Henriksen, the government should consider introducing prison terms in the legislation.
"If he pays the fines, we think it should be regarded as income, so that the women for whom he pays the fines shall be taxed," Henriksen argued. "Also, we think this is a reason why the government should consider imposing prison terms. You may pay fines for others, but you cannot serve terms for others," Martin Henriksen stressed.
Previously, the DF argued for the "Burqa Law" to include up to 7 days' imprisonment. By contrast, repeat offences would be punished by up to 14 days in prison, if the Danish People's Party had its way.
Liberal foreign affairs and integration rapporteur Marcus Knuth argued that "mild" jail sentences for repeat violations may indeed be considered.
"We shouldn't start it right now, though. Let's first see if he actually pays the fines, and if the Ministry of Justice can somehow stop him," Knuth said.
Earlier this week, Nekkaz reiterated his pledge to pay all fines for burqa wearers after a 29-year-old woman received the first fine in Hørsholm. Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen previously castigated the very idea of paying fines for someone else as "very, very un-Danish."
"I will be in Copenhagen on September 11 to pay all the fines, and I will do this every month because even though I am against the niqab, I will always defend freedom across the world: the freedom to wear a niqab as well as the freedom to not wear it," Nekkaz told the newspaper Berlingske.
Nekkaz, 46, has already been assisting in paying fines for similar offences for a number of years in countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Earlier this year, he said he had paid 1,538 fines so far.
"I don't have any limit on how many fines I will pay. There are no limits on freedom," he said.
The Danish veiling ban came into effect last week, amid protests in Copenhagen and Aarhus from Muslim women and their supporters who see the law as an infringement on religious freedom.
In Denmark, transgressors of the 'Burqa Law,' which in fact also targets other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas, masks and false beards, initially face a fine of DKK 1,000 ($155), whereas repeat offenders could end up being fined tenfold. Still, this is a far cry from the "burqa fine" in Switzerland exceeding $10,000.