MPs on Wednesday afternoon discussed draft legislation to bring in a limited ban on the burka and other ‘clothing which covers the face’.
The ban would apply to public transport, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and government buildings. A majority of MPs support the legislation, which was drawn up by home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk.
The previous cabinet had wanted to introduce a total ban on the Islamic form of dress, but the plan fell apart when the cabinet collapsed.
The new proposal states that clothing which covers the face may not be worn in certain places because of safety concerns. People who defy the ban, which also applies to balaclavas and motorbike helmets, can be fined up to €450.
A group of women wearing a niqab attended Wednesday afternoon’s debate. They were originally denied entrance to the parliamentary complex but were allowed in after showing their ID.
MP Joram van Klaveren spoke directly to the women during the debate. ‘I am glad we are making an end to this madness,’ he said.
The MP was rebuked by parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib for addressing the public gallery, which is against protocol.
The Council of State, which is the government’s most senior advisory body, has recommended against introducing a ban, arguing that there are already sufficient provisions in law to require people to show their faces.
Amsterdam university professor Annelies Moors told Radio 1 news on Wednesday morning that there are no burka wearers in the Netherlands and only very few women who wear a veil. ‘There are about 150 women on a daily basis and between 400 and 500 who occasionally do so,’ she said.
The effect of a ban will make it impossible for these women to go about their daily lives and enforcing the ban will be a waste of money, she said.
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