The Dutch cabinet has passed a ban on burqas in the Netherlands which would take effect from next year, making the Netherlands the second European Union country to ban the burqa after France. The ban is to apply in public spaces, to face covering clothing including the niqab, but also balaclavas and motorcycle helmets worn “in inappropriate places”, Deputy Prime Minister Verhagen announced. Verhagen denied that this was a ban on religious clothing, and noted that uncovered faces are an important part of “open” communication in Dutch society.
The ban will not apply in religious spaces such as mosques and churches, or to those passing through Dutch airports on travel. The new law to be submitted to parliament next week still has to be approved by both houses of parliament but would see fines of up to 390 Euros for those covering their faces. Academics in the country note that the move is highly “symbolic” in the respect that only an estimated 100-400 women in the country currently wear face covering veils.
While Geert Wilders of the anti-Islam PVV sent a supportive tweet regarding the news, the ban has met with widespread criticism. In Parliament, Tofik Dibi of the Green Left expressed disappointment about the emphasis on this issue during a time when energy is better spent combating an economic crisis, as did the leader of the Christian Union party. Organizations representing Muslims condemned the move for preventing women from deciding for themselves whether to wear a burqa, as women’s group Al Nisa commented, “Self-determination is our top priority. Some women may now well decide to wear a burqa in defiance of the ban, but a number of women are now likely not to leave their home any longer.” from interest groups supporting minority, women’s, and religious rights, as well as from politicians in the country’s Green Left Party.