Friday, January 27, 2012

Muslim Face Veils to be Banned in the Netherlands Next Year

The Dutch government plans to ban Muslim face veils such as burqas and other forms of clothing that cover the face beginning next year. The ban would make the Netherlands, where 1 million out of 17 million people are Muslim, the second European Union country to ban the burqa after France, and would apply to face-covering veils if they are worn in public.

The ban will also apply to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets when worn in inappropriate places, such as inside a store, Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen told reporters, denying that this was a ban on religious apparel.

COMMENT: Few Muslim women in the Netherlands wear the Arabic-style niqabs which leave the eyes uncovered and Afghan-style burqas that cover the face with a cloth grid. Academics estimate the numbers at between 100 and 400, whereas Muslim headscarves which leave the face exposed are far more common.

At such time as the law goes into effect, the fine for violation of the ban will be 390 euros or US$510. The ban was intended to ensure that a tradition of open communication cherished in Dutch society was upheld, and to prevent people from concealing their identity in order to do harm.

The face-veil law, which still needs to win approval in both houses of Parliament, excludes clothing worn for security reasons such as that worn by firemen and hockey players, as well as party clothing such as Santa Claus or Halloween costumes.

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