Members of the so-called AIK Ultras, the dedicated fans of Stockholm’s Allmänna Idrottsklubben (AIK) team, also unfurled a giant banner at the match in Sweden Sunday thanking the law for a religious provision loophole.
Swedish law specifically bans people in “a public place attending a public meeting under the Public Order Act” if there is a disturbance of the peace, or “immediate danger of such a breach” — making full face coverings generally illegal at football games. Those breaking the law can be fined or imprisoned for up to six months.
Yet understanding of particular religious minorities in Sweden means the second paragraph of the face covering law created an exception: “The ban does not apply to covering the face for religious reasons.”
Making the most of the new law intended to curb antisocial behaviour at football games, large numbers of AIK Ultra members were seen at the game wearing niqabs — the full face covering cloth which forms part of the Islamic hijab.
The colossal banner held by fans in the stands made reference to the Swedish politician who introduced the ban, Anders Ygeman. It read: “AIK’s ultras are well meaning, we’re now wearing masks for religious reasons. Freedom for ultras is the goal, thanks Ygeman for the loophole.”
Speaking to bestselling Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet’s Sportbladet section, Minister of Home Affairs Ygeman said he found the episode “pretty funny” and said the fans clearly had a sense of humour — but said if fans continued to use the religious exception the courts may decide the legal loophole doesn’t apply on a case-by-case basis if they found niqab-wearing men up before them.
The minister confirmed that police would not require football fans turning up to matches in niqabs to prove their religion on the spot.
While the Swedish mask ban was introduced to deal with particular problems, including violence at matches, this is not the first time European football fans have invoked Islam to make political points. Breitbart London reported in 2015 when Polish football fans unfurled a giant 50-foot ‘stand and defend Christianity’ banner at a premier league match.
Running to thousands of square feet, the banner depicted an armed crusader standing over Europe repelling migrant boats carrying terrorists.