Netherlands: Cabinet wants to ban burkas in government, schools and public transportation

A year and a half ago they were speaking of 50 women wearing a burka.


The cabinet and parliament support a more pragmatic approach: banning the burka in places where that's needed. But the parliamentary debate on the topic had become very emotional, with five minister being called up.

According to researchers not more than 100 women wear a face covering veil in the Netherlands, though some estimate it to be up to 150.

The cabinet can see that the burka brings about a feeling of discomfort and insecurity among part of the population and therefore had suggested to ban it in specific sectors. For example: government employees and schools. The cabinet is still discussing the topic with transportation companies.

A parliamentary majority supports the decision not to generally ban the burka, as it would conflict with the constitutional right of freedom of religion.

ChristianUnion parliament member Anker: Women choose a burka or niqab mostly out of religious motives. It might affect their deepest religious feelings if they may not walk out in the street.

Only the PVV and VVD voted against the pragmatic approach. The VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) had proposed that all clothing covering the face be banned, burka as well as helmets, for preserving public order and security. The PVV (Party for Freedom) suggested banning the burka alone.

PVV parliament member Fritsma thinks the burka is a "symbol of women's oppression". "Women who cover their faces reject our western values. Besides the burka hinders integration and emancipation. And above all, there is a security risk. Burka wearers are unrecognizable.

Minister Ter Horst (Internal Affairs) defended the 'more sensible line' of the government: We think the burka is undesirable. But it is important to realize that a hundred burkas don't burden Dutch society.

Minister Vogelaar (Integration) wants to keep the issue in proportions: There are a hundred women with a burka in the Netherlands. A hundred women on five ministers, we therefore are each in charge of twenty women. She wants to study why women wear a burka, and expects results in the second half of the year. According to Vogelaar a burka hinders open communication, can give the other an uneasy feeling and can also express women's oppression.
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Mininster Ab Klink (Health) said that before making a decision he will study whether burkas are a problem in the health sector. He says he does not want to make laws about problems that do not exist and that unlike teachers, a person can refuse a doctor.

Sources: Reformatisch Dagblad , Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: What about the burqa ban?

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