Bulgaria has passed a new bill banning clothing that covers the wearer's face, becoming the latest European country to outlaw the Muslim face veil.
In a vote of 108 to 8 in favor of the bill, which was proposed by the conservative Patriotic Front party, Bulgaria has become the latest in a string of European countries to ban the burqa and niqab, traditionally worn by Muslim women, according to foreign media reports.
The new rule restricts women from wearing the veil in all government institutions, including educational and social service locations, as well as in sites for public leisure. Similar laws have passed in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as Barcelona, Spain.
The national veil ban comes at a time when many Bulgarians fear the influx of refugees to Europe may threaten the country's majority Orthodox Christian culture. Some also fear that immigrants may spark radicalism among the country's centuries-old Muslim minority, made up of ethnic Roma, Turks and Pomaks.
While most Muslims in the country, who make up about 12 percent of Bulgaria's population, do not wear the face veil, some Roma women who practice a conservative form of Islam have begun wearing full face veils in the past few years, which has caused outrage among nationalist groups like the Patriotic Front.