by Sarkis Zeronian
The government of the Netherlands yesterday approved a bill for a partial ban on Islamic face-covering veils worn in public, rejecting a stricter ban previously proposed by Geert Wilders. Those choosing to ignore the new law by wearing a burqa and niqab in specifically outlawed situations could face fines up to €405 (£288).
The bill must now be sent to Netherland’s Council of State to be debated.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government was introducing the bill for “specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen” or for security reasons. The government said it “sees no reason for a general ban that would apply to all public places.”
He explainded that the law was not underpinned by religion but was to aid communication. A government statement released after the cabinet backed Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk‘s bill said:
“Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport.”
The earlier bill looking to ban face-covering veils worn on the street will be withdrawn in favour of the new one. That more comprehensive ban dated from Rutte’s previous administration, a government supported by Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom. The new bill formed part of the 2012 coalition agreement between Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Labour Party.
In proposing the draft law the government says it “tried to find a balance between people’s freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognisable communication.”
Several other European countries are reported to be considering their own bans following laws already in force elsewhere.
France introduced a ban on the burqa in 2010, fining those wearing full-face veils in public up to €150 (£106). That law was backed by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014. On that occasion judges rejected claims the ban breached religious freedom and upheld the law saying it encouraged citizens to “live together”. Belgium brought in a similar ban in 2011.