It used to be that the only people who wore burkas in the Netherlands were undercover journalists, out writing stories about how many times they got spat at in the street or terrorism trial witnesses trying to hide from the cameras.
The burka is still a ‘once in blue moon’ sight but – as with so many rare things – they are the subject of serious obsession. Take integration minister Rita Verdonk for example. Yesterday she said again that the wearing of face-covering robes in public should be prevented as much as possible. The burka, she says, hinders the integration of immigrants and the emancipation of women. Her statement comes two weeks before a government commission – which includes an Iman – is due to report its findings on a possible burka ban. It would be a silly road to go down. If human nature proves anything, it is that banning something only makes people want to do it. Ban the burka and you can bet that rebellious teenaged Muslim girls will start wearing it with a vengeance. After all, the Muslim headscarf is no longer simply a religious symbol that daddy makes you wear. It is an assertion of identity; it makes the wearer part of a group – which is what every teenager wants. And don’t forget, both headscarves and burkas are a lot less permanent than tattoos and studded noses.