Associated Press, August 1, 2019
A new Dutch law took effect Thursday banning face-covering clothing — including the burqa and niqab worn by conservative Muslim women — on public transportation, in government buildings, and at health and education institutions.
The Netherlands, long seen as a bastion of tolerance and religious freedom, is the latest European country to introduce such a ban, following the likes of France, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Denmark.
Muslim and rights groups have voiced opposition to the law — formally called the “partial ban on face-covering clothing” — and an Islamic political party in Rotterdam has said it will pay the $167 fines for anybody caught breaking it.
Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose calls for a total burqa ban ignited more than a decade of debate before parliament approved the law last year, welcomed the introduction of the limited ban as “a historic day” and called for it to be expanded to include Islamic headscarves.
“I believe we should now try to take it to the next step,” Wilders told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “The next step to make it sure that the headscarf could be banned in the Netherlands as well.”
The national federation of academic hospitals said in a statement that enforcement is up to police and prosecutors. It added: “We are not aware of any cases in which wearing face-covering clothing or a possible ban has led to problems” in health care.
The Dutch ban came into force eight years after France became the first European nation to ban the public use of veils, both face-covering niqabs and full-body burqas. A 2004 law also bans Muslim hijab headscarves and other prominent religious symbols from being worn in state schools, but doesn’t apply in universities.
France’s tough law fell foul of the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which last year ruled that the country violated the human rights of two women by fining them for wearing the niqab.