Dutch parliament approve partial ban on burqa wearing in public

Those flouting the ban would face a fine of up to 410 euros (around $430). Photograph:( Getty )

The Hague, Netherlands Nov 29, 2016, 08.50 PM (IST)

The Dutch parlimanet voted on Tuesday in favour of banning the Islamic full-face veil from some public places such as schools and hospitals.

The motion "to ban all clothing which completely covers the face" from government buildings was approved by 132 members in the 150-seat house, news agency AFP reported.

The legislation will also ban burqas and face coverings with eye-slits from public transport.

"The law is adopted," said the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Khadija Arib.

The legislation has to be approved by a Senate before it can be a law. The Dutch cabinet had approved the plan in mid-2015.

The tensions with the Islamic communities in Europe continues to rise. Similar bans have also been imposed in France and Belgium.

It backed the legislation due to the "necessity to be able to interact face-to-face, for instance in places where public services are performed and safety must be guaranteed," the government said, reported AFP. "The government sees no need to impose the ban on all public spaces," it added.

Violaters would be fined up to 410 euros (around $430).

The ban does not apply to waering helmets, or full-face safety protection while working playing sport or "during a festive or cultural event".

The anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) of firebrand politician Geert Wilders, who is leading opinion polls ahead of March elections supported the ban.

"How do we even know there's a woman under this Islamic textile?" said PVV lawmaker Machiel de Graaf, AFP reported. "It might as well be a well-trained jihadist who completed his training in Raqa of course," he said in a parliamentary debate last week.

Public newscaster NOS said only about 150 women in The Netherlands wear the burqa, most of them only occasionally.

And MP Tunahan Kuzu, who vehemently fought against the draft legislation, said freedom of expression allowed people "to be who they are and dress how they want", AFP said.

"It is reprehensible to exclude these women and isolate them because of a subject anxiety among certain citizens," he said.

Karima Rahmani, who attended the parliamentry debate last week in a burqa, argued that there were already rules which identified women wearing the burqa.

"When we go to the town hall we have to identify ourselves, as well as at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport where we have to remove it," she told NOS. "The obligation to identify oneself is already provided for in the law."

A burqa ban in France was lawed in 2011, imposing a 150 euro fine on violation. There have been 1,500 arrests in the past five years.

The European Court of Human Rights in 2014 backed the French ban, rejecting arguments that outlawing full-face veils breaches religious freedom, reported AFP.

Some parts of Switzerland have followed France's lead and similar bans are being considered in other European countries. This summer some French towns also controversially banned burkinis, the full-body Islamic swimsuit.

(With inputs from AFP)