The measure would violate citizens’ rights and the freedom of religion, the cabinet explained FILE PHOTO: Guests of the Kurban-Fest festival in the Old Tatar settlement in Kazan, Russia. © Sputnik / Maxim Bogodvid

The Russian government has rejected an initiative to ban the niqab, a traditional Muslim veil that covers the entire face apart from the eyes, Kommersant reported on Monday, citing a cabinet document.

Banning the garment could violate secular rights and the freedom of religion, which are guaranteed to all citizens of Russia by the constitution, the government said. The cabinet was responding to questions which Russian MPs submitted to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ahead of his annual report.

Government officials have also dismissed the idea of mandating that ethnicity be indicated in Russia’s internal passports. Identity documents issued by the Soviet Union listed a citizen’s ‘nationality’, which was understood to mean ethnic origin. This practice was canceled after the collapse of the USSR in 1991; the new constitution didn’t require citizens to specify their background.

Addressing questions from members of Russia’s Communist Party members related to illegal migration and ethnic crimes, the government said it is planning to develop a so-called digital profile for foreign citizens in order to track migration.

Last week, the head of Russia’s Human Rights Council, Valery Fadeev, said the government should consider a ban on niqabs, citing the risk of extremism.

Russian human rights official calls for ban on Muslim face coverings Russian human rights official calls for ban on Muslim face coverings

His remarks came almost two months after the deadly terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue outside Moscow, in which 145 people died and over 500 were injured. The suspected perpetrators turned out to be citizens of Tajikistan, a majority-Muslim former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

Fadeev’s proposal met with a mixed response. The head of the State Duma’s Labor Committee, Yaroslav Nilov, said that any such measures should be discussed behind closed doors with representatives of Muslim groups and local authorities, without widespread media coverage.

Moscow’s chief mufti, Ildar Alyautdinov, warned that banning the niqab could cause discontent among Muslims in Russia and lead to new unrest.

Alyautdinov told RIA Novosti last week that the Russian Muslim community would support the niqab ban only if law enforcement officials were able to prove a direct connection between wearing the niqab and the growing risk of extremism.

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is a “multinational and multi-religious country” that treats everyone with respect, emphasizing that some “190 ethnic groups live in the country,” some of which include “millions of people.” (RT)