People wearing burqas, balaclavas or all-in-one motorbike helmets in public in the Netherlands will soon face fines. On Friday, government ministers voted to outlaw all clothing which covers the face.
Interior Minister Liesbeth Spies said what has become known as ‘the burqa ban’ was “incredibly important”. She went on to say that she found it vital that in an open society people’s contact with each other should also be open.
The government said earlier that the European Treaty of Human Rights allows member states to regulate the freedom of religion in the interest of public order. In the past two years France and Belgium issued similar bans on clothing that hides the face.
People who dress up in disguise for traditional Dutch festivities like carnival or Saint Nicholas need not fear the law, the government said.
Political reactions to the cabinet decision varied across the political spectrum. Geert Wilders, whose party supports the minority rightwing government, tweeted in elation ‘Great news! At last the Netherlands has a burqa ban! Cabinet passes proposal. Great!’.
From the other side of the house, opposition Green Left MP Tofik Dibi put the measure against the background of the financial crisis in Europe. He said in a Twitter message dripping with irony, ‘Yo cabinet! While people are unsure about their own future and their kids’, lets focus on fining a handful of burqa wearers…’
Leader of the small evangelical Christian Union, Arie Slob said, also in a tweet: ‘That’s how the Rutte cabinet wants to face the crisis: by banning the burqa. That will help. #unemployment #500,000 #dosomething’.