Austrian police issued a fine to a man dressed as a shark under new anti-burqa laws, Austrian media reported on Monday.
The mascot was standing outside a new outlet of the McShark electronics store in Vienna when he was asked by police to remove his shark head. When he refused, he was issued with a fine, which can be up to €150.
The new laws aimed at prohibiting people from covering their faces in public came into effect at the start of October. The rule came as part of legislation approved in May that also establishes mandatory integration courses and prompts asylum-seekers to do unpaid public work.
Advertising agency Warda Network revealed the fine in a post on its Facebook page (link in German). “Today we were at the McShark store opening and our shark mascot received a fine from the Vienna police because of the new ban on face-coverings! Life is not easy!” the post said.
Daily newspaper Heute (link in German) reported the offending mascot told police “I’m just doing my job,” when approached by officers.
Eugen Prosquill, managing director of the advertising agency, told the paper he wasn’t sure if they would continue to use mascots in their campaigns. “It would be a shame if there were no more mascots from now on,” he was quoted as saying.
Police confirmed to the paper the mascot was fined for initially refusing to remove his shark head.
Regional daily Österreich reported the officers acted after a member of the public reported the mascot. Police suspected the report came from someone who wished to prove a point about the new laws.
The laws were written in such a way to be religiously-neutral, but that has led to widespread confusion in the German-speaking nation. Vienna daily Der Standard reported that in one case a cyclist was stopped by police for covering her face with a scarf.
France was the first European country to outlaw face veils in 2011. Belgium, Bulgaria and Switzerland followed suit, while the Netherlands has prohibited the use of veils in public offices. Germany imposed a limited ban on face coverings in April. It applies to only public officials and soldiers on duty.