The Dutch government may be about to take a step into the unknown and become the first European country to ban burqas and other Muslim face veils in public. Immigration minister Rita Verdonk has been asked to study the feasibility of such a ban. Although religious freedom laws could be an obstacle, she says the government will try and find a way around this as it finds face-covering clothing in public “undesirable”.
The Netherlands one million-strong Muslim community says only a small number of women wear either the burqa or the niqab face veil, and that any ban would make Muslims feel more victimised and alienated. But the leader of the right-wing Freedom Party Geert Wilders does not understand why there is no law already: “Parliament’s already asked the government twice for such a law, and they should just do it”. The Dutch vote in a general election on November 22, and discussion of a ban on face-covering clothing in public has been broached by several politicians. Existing legislation already limits total coverings and burqas on public transport and schools.