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Sat 28 Jan 2012 09:40 AM

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Dutch gov't to ban Muslim face veils next year

Violations of new law will carry fines of up to $510, says interior affairs ministry

Dutch gov't to ban Muslim face veils next year
[Image for illustrative purposes only]

The Dutch minority government plans to ban Muslim face veils such as burqas and other forms of clothing that cover the face from next year.

The ban would make the Netherlands, where 1 million out of 17 million people are Muslim, the second European Union country to ban the burqa after France, and would apply to face-covering veils if they were worn in public.

"People should be able to look at each other's faces and recognise each other when they meet," the interior affairs ministry said in a statement Friday.

The ban will also apply to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets when worn in inappropriate places, such as inside a store, Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen told reporters, denying that this was a ban on religious clothing.

Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), which helps give the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition a majority in parliament, has set considerable political store on getting the so-called burqa ban passed into law.

Few Muslim women in the Netherlands wear the Arabic-style niqabs which leave the eyes uncovered and Afghan-style burqas that cover the face with a cloth grid.

Academics estimate the numbers at between 100 and 400, whereas Muslim headscarves which leave the face exposed are far more common.

The coalition has agreed to submit a new law to parliament next week stipulating that offenders would be fined up to 390 euros ($510), the ministry said.

Verhagen said the ban was intended to ensure that a tradition of open communication cherished in Dutch society was upheld, and to prevent people from concealing their identity in order to do harm.

Wilders, who condemned Dutch Queen Beatrix for covering her hair with a scarf on a recent royal visit to the Middle East, said on Twitter: "Great news: burqa ban will finally come to the Netherlands! Proposal approved by ministers' council. Excellent!"

Maurits Berger, professor of Islam in the contemporary West at Leiden University, said only a few hundred women wear the full face veil in the Netherlands.

"This is highly symbolic, it's part of the deal made with PVV," Berger said. "We are in the middle of a crisis. There are worse things to tackle."

The minority coalition is at odds with the Freedom Party over where to make further budget cuts, and the scale of the cuts needed.

The face-veil law, which still needs to win approval in both houses of parliament, excludes clothing worn for security reasons such as that worn by firemen and hockey players, as well as party clothing such as Santa Claus or Halloween costumes.

The ban does not apply to religious places, such as churches and mosques, nor to passengers on airplanes or en route via a Dutch airport, the interior ministry said.

Jake 7 years ago

The following passages should be underlined, just to avoid the usual selective reading.

"The ban does not apply to religious places, such as churches and mosques, nor to passengers on airplanes or en route via a Dutch airport"

and

"The ban will also apply to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets when worn in inappropriate places, such as inside a store"

But lets just wait for those, who supported Qatars step to ban alcohol on the Pearl and demanded other GCC countries to follow suit, come here and challenge this law.

PKK 7 years ago

Your article is a bit biased.

The law has support from the main political parties in the Dutch government and not just the PVV. So there is broad consensus to support the law

Other European countries (other than France and the Netherlands) have implemented such legislation or are considering it.

charles 7 years ago

It is the right of the Netherlands to bring in such legislation if they so wish.
As Jake rightly points out, that won't stop the zealots protesting but ultimately it is their country and their laws.
And if people don't like it, they can always leave. Amsterdam has a great airport with routes to many countries.

Saffa expat 7 years ago

@Jake It is their country so they are allowed to force outsiders to follow any law they implement or the locals want...
I believe that's what they were all saying with Qatar, I wonder how they will turn this around and complain how the west always picks on them. Two can play that game!

Lionheart 7 years ago

Im actually all for tolerance but certain sections of society cannot force their values and customs upon a nation if it erodes the host countries traditions and values.

Qatar has it's traditions and values and i respect and follow them and i thinks it's great that a country should uphold it's values and traditions if it can whilst giving others the chance to live their lives in a way which doesn't impose on their own traditions and culture.

Expats in this part of the world get told to leave if they don't like it and no doubt we'll get the usual hypocrisy and double standard comments that come with articles like this.

I have lived in this part of the world for 20 years and if anytime i do not agree with whats going on i can leave for my host country and i'm happy to do that . You'll find people are just people whatever the race , creed , colour or religion .


Mick 7 years ago

I feel that every country has the right to impose its laws wherever they see fit. Just as they do in countries that have regulations based around religion. If Qatar want to ban alcohol, fine. The World Cup should take place in every part of the world and (even though originally, I thought it would be ruin the enjoyment of participating to have it in a "regimented" country)....the more I think about it, the World Cup should expose the world to football within different cultures, football-centric or not. It's a sport loved everywhere (even in the States, where you probably think that they destroy it - you'd be surprised at how many don't call it soccer...). I'd love to see the WC in China, the U.S. or Australia. It's interesting to have the WC lined with cultural themes. The game won't change. Just its surroundings. It's not a select few countries that own football. It also fosters interest and investment in usually neglected nations. I realise this is about burqas not footie.

nirsly 7 years ago

@Lionheart

" cannot force their values and customs upon a nation"

You mean like when the French occupied Algeria, and the British occupied The Middle East, and Italy occupied Libya?

keenobzerver 7 years ago

@Charles
"if people don't like it, they can always leave" , what about dutch converts to islam, young dutch women who embrace the lifestyle and made a personal choice to wear the burqa? are you asking them to leave too ? based on their religious beleifs ?

Interesting though is that halloween masks are excempt from this law, so i guess we will see a few young women wearing "screem" type masks in downtown amsterdam :)

Jake 7 years ago

as a keen observer you would notice that their personal choice is merely a tradition, not a religious requirement.
The ban does not refer to the headscarf nor your right to pray 5 times a day.
So basically you are choosing to violate a law, that in most countries already exists. You may not cover your face in public places, period.

Democracy does not mean you can do whatever you want, it means that if you do not like what the majority has decided, you may start petitions and elect a party that represents your wishes and values.

Telcoguy 7 years ago

I am speculating here, but I would say that if the masks are worn outside Halloween they will probably ball under this law.
About your question regarding citizens, in Netherlands there is a significant group of people who are naturists, i.e., they will be happily on the street cloth less in spite of the cold, damp weather, however they are not allowed.
If they feel that this is too oppressive yes, I think they can leave.
Being a citizen does not grant you unlimited rights as surprising as this may be to you.
And no, lack absolute rights is not the same as absolute lack of rights even though many readers here seem to get confused about that.
I find particularly amusing people who build their argument around dissenting citizens in the west and 100% conformance in MENA.