Austrian mayor slams burka ban in sports shop

A sports shop owner has come under fire after he put up a sign banning customers wearing full face veils, a move described by the local mayor as "unacceptable".

Austrian mayor slams burka ban in sports shop
Sports shop owner Hubert Wöll. Photo: Sport Wöll

Next to a window sticker banning dogs from the Sport Wöll shop near Achensee in Tyrol, shop owner Hubert Wöll put up a similar sticker indicating women wearing full niqabs are also not allowed inside.

Photo: Kurier/Private

“It stays stuck there as long as I live,” Wöll told the Kurier newspaper. “I have to be able to look women in the face, if they borrow a bike.”

Asked whether he thought he was discriminating against the women, the shop owner said they were being discriminated against by men “if they have to wear these veils”.

“I also want to be able to see whether a woman is happy,” he said. “That’s not possible if she’s wearing a burka.”

“If they want to visit my business, then they are welcome to do so – but without a burka.”

The local mayor of Eben am Achensee Josef Hausberger has criticised the move by the shop owner, describing the sticker as “unacceptable”.

“I am against exclusion. People are equal – regardless of religion or origin,” he said.

According to the Hausberger, the region only received a few guests from the Middle East last summer – including a few women wearing veils, although it was not cause for “much excitement”.

The most popular spot in Austria for tourists from the Gulf region is Zell am See, in Salzburg, which began marketing itself to Arab tourists as a ‘paradise’ over a decade ago.

Salzburg’s tourism agency ran into criticism last year, however, when it published a guide for visitors from the Gulf region about on how to behave in Austria.

Suggestions included the idea that Austrian shopkeepers don't expect to haggle over prices, and that eating on the floor in hotel rooms is a “no-no”.

According to the executive director of the Salzburger Land Tourism company, Leo Bauernberger, “Arabs are here in the summer for more than 470,000 nights, making them the second largest visitor group after Germans.”