Update: Continued Reaction to Dutch Cabinet Adoption of Burqa Ban

28 January 2012

Following last week’s announcement that the Dutch cabinet had adopted a ban on face coverings despite the grave reservations of the government’s advisory body and highest court, media coverage has reported a range of response.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that the chair of the police works council has criticized the ban as ‘symbolic policy’ and feels that it is unlikely to have practical benefits. Security and Justice Minister Yvo Opstelten responded to the comments by noting that once approved, police will be obliged to enforce the ban.

The Jerusalem Post notes several instances of women condemning the ban, including those who feel that it would encourage more women to don a burqa. Fatima Elatik, a practicing Muslim of Moroccan descent who is district mayor of East Amsterdam. Elatik opposes the ban on this basis. The same article reports that a politician for the country’s Green Left party is calling upon ‘all women’ to wear a burqa as a form of protest to the ban.

Meanwhile, a comic who responded to the controversy by creating farcical online dance video  ‘Do the Burqa’ has faced threats.

Last week’s adoption by the Dutch cabinet considerably furthered the likelihood of the ban passing into law. However, the ban must still pass a vote in parliament before becoming law.

Dutch Cabinet Passes Ban on Burqas

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.


Dutch Cabinet to Dedicate Funds to Victims of Honour Violence

February 4 2011

Following a pilot study of two shelters serving women persecuted in honour related violence, Deputy Welfare Minister Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten has announced she will earmark additional funds for these victims. The minister wants the funds to help identify the problems at an early stage and to help victims resume their normal lives.

Dutch Cabinet Discusses Cost of Immigration

The Volkskrant reports that government ministers will discuss a request by Geert Wilders’ PVV party to calculate exactly how much non-western immigrants cost Dutch society. Ministers must decide how far they will go in their reply on this ‘sensitive issue’, which some political parties had hoped to ignore. Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan has asked the government’s social policy unit, the SCP, to help ministers make the calculations.

Dutch officials visit Dearborn, Michigan to learn about improving Muslim relations

Dutch officials visited the Dearborn area this week to discern why Muslims are more accepted in the United States than in the Netherlands. Dutch Cabinet Minister Francis Timmermans and an entourage of officials met with 35 local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders at the Islamic Center of America. We are good at allowing people to make their own choices,” said Timmermans, the European minister of The Netherlands, reflecting on the long tolerance for multiple Christian denominations in his country. “But were we good at dialogue? This world needs dialogue.”

Timmermans stated that there has been an ideological shift in the way that Muslim-Dutch issues are viewed in Dutch society, and that this shift changed after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. Before this, problems of integration of immigrants were often described as issued related to youth and young people, but “since 9/11, all of these people have simply become Muslims. This is simply, probably a knee-jerk reaction to fear in the society. The Dutch officials spent an entire day engaging with representatives from the Dearborn community, to examine ways in which social and religious tensions, and difficulties sometimes caused by “free speech,” are dealt with differently in the United States.

New Dutch Muslim Cabinet minister accuses lawmaker of racially motivated political attacks

One of the first two Muslims appointed to a Dutch Cabinet post, Ahmed Aboutaleb calls himself a “foot soldier” in the cause of immigrant integration. And as a foot soldier, he expects to be a target, he said Wednesday. Since being sworn in last month as junior minister for social affairs, Aboutaleb and fellow Muslim Cabinet minister Nebahat Albayrak have come under sustained political fire over their dual nationalities. Anti-immigration lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party won nine seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament in elections last November, claims their dual passports – Aboutaleb has Moroccan and Dutch nationality, Albayrak Turkish and Dutch – mean they also have split loyalties. Aboutaleb rejects the idea, pointing out that Dutch citizens who collaborated with their country’s Nazi occupiers during World War II only had one passport.