Dutch ban on burkas in public places takes effect
The Netherlands banned the wearing of a face-covering veil, such as a burka or niqab, in public buildings and on transport from Thursday as a contentious law on the garment worn by some Muslim women came into force.
Between 200 and 400 women are estimated to wear a burka or niqab in the country of 17 million people.
The Dutch legislation was passed in June 2018 after more than a decade of political debate on the subject. Far-right politician Geert Wilders had proposed the face-covering veil ban back in 2005.
Burka, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing?
Hijab: most Islamic scholars agree that the hijab, which covers the head and neck, and comes in any number of shapes and colors, must be worn by Muslim women. American teen Hannah Schraim is seen wearing one here while playing with her brother
Chador: the chador, which is usually black, is a body-length outer garmet often worn in Iran and among modern-minded women in the Gulf States, as here in Saudi Arabia. It is not fastened with clasps or buttons and therefore has to be held closed by the wearer
Niqab: a niqab is a veil and scarf that covers the entire face yet leaves the eyes free. It covers a woman's hair, as it falls to the middle of her back and some are also half-length in the front so as to cover her chest. Here it is being worn by women attending a rally by Salafist radicals in Germany
Abaya: an abaya is a loose-fitting, full-length garment designed to cover the body. It may come in many different styles – as seen here at an Arab fashion show – and is often worn in combination with hijab or niqab
Burka: the burka is the most extensive of all Muslim garments, covering the entire body from head to toe. It traditionally has a woven mesh area around the eyes to allow women to see. In this case enabling them to cast their ballots in Pakistani parliamentary elections
No veil: Queen Rania of Jordan says that Islam does not coerce women to wear any head coverings, and that it is more important to judge a woman by her ethics and values, rather than what she wears. She is seen here meeting with refugees in Greece. Author: Jon Shelton
"I believe we should now try to take it to the next step," Wilders wrote in a tweet on Thursday, urging that the simple headscarf should be banned as well.
The Dutch interior ministry issued a statement saying: "From now on the wearing of clothing which covers the face is banned in educational facilities, public institutions and buildings, as well as hospitals and public transport."
People must be recognisable in public spaces, so the ban also applies to face-covering helmets or hoods, punishable by a fine of 150 euros ($165).
The Dutch law does not ban the wearing of a burka on the street, unlike France's ban which took effect in 2010. Belgium, Denmark and Austria have similar laws.
The move appeared to be unpopular with the general public in The Hague.
"Ridiculous. I find it ridiculous. You should respect each other's values and I think it's the dumbest rule they ever thought of," Anne Spillner, 28, told journalists.
Jan Jans, 57, agreed. "I think it's a bad law... because it cannot be enforced. It's a mix-up between combatting terrorism and Islam and religion," he said.
Hasnaa, 21, who declined to give her surname, said people "should have this freedom to wear whatever we want, to express ourselves just through the way that we look."
But Saskia, 67, who similarly declined to provide her surname, said she was in favour of the ban "because you cannot see who is behind it (the burka). If somebody covers themselves from head to toe and covers their face, then it is a threat."
For the ban to be enforced, the interior ministry said it was instructing school, hospital and transport staff to refuse entry to women wearing a veil. And if the woman refuses to comply, then "they can call the police."
But the police, who frequently call for more resources from the government, said they did not regard enforcing the ban as "an absolute priority".
The public transport authorities said bus, tram and metro drivers would not stop to ask a burka-clad woman to leave or wait for police to arrive, as that would lead to delays.
"Drivers can very well decide not to say anything," said the head of the OVNL public transport association, Pedro Peters.
Hospitals also said they would still treat people regardless of what they are wearing. (AFP)