Austria’s anti-face-covering law snags a shark…mascot

Source: Posts from Lowering the Bar for 10/12/2017

It’s about sharks and shark mascots and shark masks and an Austrian law. We are all forgiven if the masks and mascot references are confusing.

But my confusion did not extend to the country of Austria. Although my geographical knowledge of Asia, and Africa and the mid-East and a few other areas of the earth is, hum, what to say? hazy?–I’m always dragging out my atlas to check yet again on the placement of Indonesia–my geographical awareness of countries I’ve visited, like Austria, is not too bad.

So I dragged out my atlas (it’s gorgeous–published by Oxford–and extremely heavy, thus the “drag” part) to double-check and…

Yes, Austria is a land-locked nation.


Anyway, it’s a good laugh for today. I offer the beginning of this Lowering the Bar item. Click on the link if you’d like to laugh even more with the rest of it, diligently and hilariously analyzed by Kevin Underhill.

Anti-Mask Law Saddens Austrian Shark Mascot

Oct 12, 2017 04:45 am | Kevin

sad shark

The law of unintended consequences strikes again: an Austrian law intended to discriminate against Muslims—sorry, “to encourage assimilation into Austrian culture”—has ended up punishing the nation’s shark mascots, according to reports this week.

I actually don’t know whether Austria has more than one shark mascot, but it has at least one. And that one reportedly got a ticket last Friday in Vienna because his shark head covered his face, something that has been illegal in Austria since the Anti-Face-Covering Act took effect on October 1st.

Is it actually called the “Anti-Face-Covering Act”? Well, technically it’s the Bundesgesetz über das Verbot der Verhüllung des Gesichts in der Öffentlichkeit (“Federal Law on the Prohibition of Covering the Face in Public”), but the Act says you can call it the Anti-Gesichtsverhüllungsgesetz (“Anti-Face-Covering Act”) for short. So, yes.

This is one of several recently enacted provisions relating to immigration, generally described in the legislation as being intended to encourage “integration” of migrants into Austrian society. The objectives of the Anti-Face-Covering Act in particular are said to be “the promotion of integration by strengthening participation in society and securing peaceful coexistence in Austria.” It is generally referred to as “the burqa ban,” because some cynics apparently believe the intent is actually to keep Muslim women from wearing burqas, but as you can see here, it doesn’t say anything about that:


§ 2. (1) Wer an öffentlichen Orten oder in öffentlichen Gebäuden seine Gesichtszüge durch Kleidung oder andere Gegenstände in einer Weise verhüllt oder verbirgt, dass sie nicht mehr erkennbar sind, begeht eine Verwaltungsübertretung und ist mit einer Geldstrafe bis zu 150 Euro zu bestrafen….

(2) Ein Verstoß gegen das Verhüllungsverbot gemäß Abs. 1 liegt nicht vor, wenn die Verhüllung oder Verbergung der Gesichtszüge durch Bundes- oder Landesgesetz vorgesehen ist, im Rahmen künstlerischer, kultureller oder traditioneller Veranstaltungen oder im Rahmen der Sportausübung erfolgt oder gesundheitliche oder berufliche Gründe hat.

Well, embarrassingly, Google translates Verhüllungsverbot as “Veiling Ban,” but Verhüllung seems to be a more general term that can also mean “cover,” “mask,” or “disguise,” so there’s that.

But if you read even farther, you grasp what this shark mascot actually is. Well, if you can do any grasping while you’ve collapsed onto the floor with helpless laughter:

“I had no idea the law was so extreme it covered mascots,” said the manager of the advertising agency who sent the Austrian shark out to dance around in front of McShark’s, a new electronics shop in Vienna. But indeed it did apply, or at least police who harassed the shark last Friday believed it did. “The shark was fined because he refused to take his mask off,” a police spokesman confirmed, although based on the picture it looks like he just didn’t take it off quickly enough. “I’m only doing my job,” the shark complained, to no avail.

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