Dutch politi­cians de­bate ban on Mus­lim head­wear

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

DUTCH politi­cians on Wed­nes­day de­bated a lim­ited ban on face-cov­er­ing head­wear worn by some Mus­lim women that would out­law veils in places such as schools, hos­pi­tals and on pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

Only a few hun­dred Mus­lim women in the Nether­lands wear con­ceal­ing full-face cov­er­ings, but suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have still sought to ban the gar­ments, fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of other Euro­pean coun­tries such as France and Bel­gium.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ron­ald Plasterk said the Dutch pro­posal did not go as far as the com­plete bans in those coun­tries. He called the leg­is­la­tion “re­li­gion-neu­tral”, but con­ceded the de­bate about peo­ple wear­ing veils on Dutch streets had played a ma­jor role in the pro­posal.

Plasterk said in a free coun­try such as the Nether­lands peo­ple should be al­lowed to ap­pear in pub­lic with their faces cov­ered, if they want to, but in gov­ern­ment build­ings and in health and ed­u­ca­tion set­tings — such as hos­pi­tals and schools — peo­ple need to be able to look each other in the face.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear when politi­cians would vote on the is­sue. If the leg­is­la­tion passes par­lia­ment’s lower house as ex­pected, it must also be ap­proved by the Sen­ate be­fore be­com­ing law.

A small group of peo­ple wear­ing full-face veils watched the de­bate from the pub­lic gallery.

In­de­pen­dent politi­cian Jac­ques Monasch called the veil “a sym­bol of op­pres­sion of women” and ob­jected to the pres­ence of face-cov­ered spec­ta­tors in the gallery.

One op­po­nent of the leg­is­la­tion, Fatma Koser Kaya of the cen­trist D66 party, said the law was un­nec­es­sary be­cause many in­sti­tu­tions in the Nether­lands al­ready have in­de­pen­dent au­thor­ity to stop women wear­ing veils and head­scarves in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions.

“What are we ban­ning to­day?” she asked. “This is sym­bolic law­mak­ing . . . be­cause, in prac­tice, it al­ready hap­pens.” — AFP

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