Janene Pieters, NL Times, August 21, 2019
Angela Kempeners, a 36-year-old Limburg woman who was removed from an Arriva bus in Stein on Monday because she was wearing a niqab, is shaken by the event, but will continue to take the bus to work. “I felt just like a black person in the United States. This really hit me”, she said to newspaper Trouw.
As far as is known, Angela is the first niqab-wearing woman to be put off public transport since the Netherlands implemented its partial ban on face-covering clothing, often referred to as the burka ban, on August 1st. On Monday afternoon a bus driver in Stein asked her to get off the bus. She refused and the bus driver called the police. Twenty minutes later, a police officer arrived and asked her to go. She did.
Arriva confirmed the incident and said that was “not in accordance with the guidelines” – Arriva instructed its employees not to enforce the ban. According to the public transit company’s guidelines, drivers must always focus on de-escalation and must not stop the vehicle or disrupt the schedule. Despite the ban, travelers with a valid ticket can not be forced to leave the vehicle because the company has a duty to offer transport, Arriva said in its guidelines, according to Trouw.
Angela converted to Islam ten years ago and started wearing a niqab as a symbol of her religion, according to De Limburger. “I decided to myself”, she said to the newspaper. “I don’t want the attention at all. And I am not a criminal. But I’m telling my story because I want to be able to travel by bus, just like going to a bank or going to the hospital. I am even willing to identify myself by taking off my niqab if necessary, but the bus driver did not ask me to do so.”
“I regularly travel by bus, the first time after the burka ban was on August 11. Since then I have been on the bus at least three times. The first driver said he was not bothered by my niqab, the second said nothing at all. The third time I was approached by a driver who was afraid of a fuss in the bus. I said: we’ll see about it then”, she said to Trouw. On Monday she was in Stein for a new job. Despite the incident, she will continue taking the bus. “I now have to take the bus every day and have no alternative, it is a 20 minute ride.”
Arriva told Trouw that they discussed the matter with the bus driver in question, but would say nothing further. “This is not in accordance with the guidelines as communicated by the public transport companies to all employees. We will once again bring this to the attention of our employees internally”, a spokesperson said to the newspaper.
When Angela took the bus again on Tuesday, she came across the same driver in Stein. The driver again called the police, but this time they did not respond, according to De Limburger.
Earlier this month there was an incident involving the face-covering clothing ban at a playground in Nijmegen. A woman in a niqab was refused entry by the manager, who invoked the ban. Because the playground is owned by the municipality, the manager thought that the new law applied to it. The law bans face-covering clothing in government buildings, public transport, health care institutions, and education institutions. But after consultation with the municipality and the police, it turned out not to apply to the playground. The municipality of Nijmegen apologized to the affected woman.