After Belgium, France and Denmark, the Netherlands is the latest European country to ban the burqa and the niqab in public buildings. A new law passed on Tuesday forbids the wearing of clothing that covers the face in government buildings, public transport, schools and hospitals.
The ban also covers motorcycle helmets and ski masks, but it does not apply when these items are being worn on the street. The law has been very well received by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who took to Twitter to congratulate the “majority in the Dutch parliament voted in favour of my motion to ban the burqa.”
Dutch Senator Marjolein Faber-Van of Klashorst said on Tuesday that it was “a historic day, as it is the first step to de-Islamize the Netherlands.”
The ban has been criticised by the Dutch government’s main advisory body which said the choice to wear an Islamic veil is protected by the constitutional right to freedom of religion. It is also said the law was unnecessary, as only 200 to 400 women in The Netherlands wear a burqa or niqab.
Several other European countries have already voted for partial restrictions on the wearing of the Islamic veil, including Belgium, France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark.
In Belgium, the wearing of the full Islamic veil is prohibited in the public space. This prohibition has been validated by the European Court of Human Rights. A Belgian company may also prohibit, through its internal regulations, the wearing of religious, political and philosophical signs in the name of neutrality. This is also the case in both French and Flemish schools, where philosophical and religious signs are in principle banned.
The Danish parliament banned the wearing of face veils in public spaces on May 31, 2018.