Man Wearing Shark Head Fined Under Austria's ‘Burqa Ban’

Barely a week after Austria's controversial "burqa ban" took effect, a man has been arrested under it for wearing a full-body shark costume, Austrian media reported on Monday. When confronted by police, the man—who was dressed up to promote a new McShark electronics store—refused to remove his shark head, after which he was fined 150 euros.

"I'm just doing my job," the mascot told police, according to local paper Heute.

Related: We are not better than the Taliban if we ban the burqa

An advertising agency called the Warda Network was responsible for the promotion. "I did not know that the law is so far that mascots are affected," said Eugen Prosquill, the agency's managing director.

Mascots are affected, though, as is anyone wearing any sort of mask, apparently. Austria's burqa ban is different from that of other European nations. For fear of being labeled as discriminatory, the nation did not prohibit burqas, specifically. Instead, it banned everyone in the country from covering their faces. This has created widespread confusion, and local paper Österreich reports that those who reported the man in the shark costume as violating the law were likely doing so to prove a point.

This isn't the first time the new law has been questionably enforced. Although none of them have been fined, several bikers have been pulled over for covering their faces with scarves. The Warda Network has said that it will not appeal the fine given to its sidewalk shark, but police said that the charges will likely be dropped.

As Europe began to take in Muslim migrants in 2016, several nations have called for and subsequently instituted bans on "full veil" coverings. "The full veil is not appropriate here," German Prime Minister Angela Merkel said last year. "It should be banned wherever it's legally possible."

German parliament went on to pass a partial burqa ban in April. "Integration also means that we should make clear and impart our values and where the boundaries lie of our tolerance towards other cultures," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. "The draft law we have agreed on makes an important contribution to that."

Not only does Austria's ban—which was protested across the country and even by its own president—prevent anyone from covering their face, it requires all new migrants to attend classes to learn to speak German and understand Austrian culture. Though the face-covering restriction has resulted in problems thus far, Austrians need not to worry about getting slapped with a ticket at the end of the month: Police have said that anyone dressing up for Halloween will be exempt.

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