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Austria Face Cover Ban Comes Into Effect

Police officers patrol as they pass by a woman wearing a traditional hijab headdress in Zell am See, Austria, Oct. 1, 2017.

Muslim women in Austria were forced by police to remove their face coverings, as a law banning religious and other coverings came into effect Sunday.

Under the ban, wearing a ski mask off the slopes, a surgical mask outside hospitals and party masks in public is now also prohibited.

Those who defy the ban could face a fine of nearly $180. Police are authorized to use force if people resist showing their faces.

The government says the law, which says faces must be visible from the hairline to the chin, is about protecting Austrian values.

Muslim groups have condemned the law, saying just a tiny minority of Austrian Muslims wear full-face veils. Full veils remain rare in Austria despite the surge of migrants and refugees into Europe in 2015, but they have become a target for right-wing groups and political parties.

The law, similar to ones in France and Belgium, also applies to visitors including the large numbers of Arab tourists who vacation in the Alpine country.