The Netherlands has passed a partial ban on face veils in certain public places, ceding to a decades-long push from the country’s far-right, anti-Muslim figures.
The Dutch parliament’s upper chamber passed a law Tuesday that bans people from wearing clothing that covers the face ― including the Islamic burqa and niqab ― in government buildings, schools, hospitals, and on public transport.
An influx of migrants, including a significant number of Syrian refugees, has contributed to a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the Netherlands, which now joins other European countries that have instituted restrictions on women wearing face veils in public places. France, Belgium, Austria, and Denmark have passed laws imposing fines and, in some cases, jail time, on women who wear face veils in public.
The Dutch government says the new law is “religion-neutral,” The Associated Press reports. The ban also applies to ski masks and full-face helmets in these public spaces.
But some far-right politicians who advocated the ban pointed out its impact specifically on Muslim communities.
Geert Wilders, who leads the nationalist Party for Freedom, referred to the law as a ban on the burqa in a celebratory tweet Wednesday.
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) June 27, 2018
Senator Marjolein Faber-Van de Klashorst, a member of the Freedom Party, said the ban was “the first step to de-Islamize the Netherlands.”
“The next step is to close all the mosques in the Netherlands,” she said, according to the AP.
The burqa is a face veil worn by some Muslim women as part of their spiritual practice. It covers the face completely, leaving a net screen for the eyes. The niqab is another type of Islamic veil that leaves the area around the eyes open. Only about 200 to 400 women in the Netherlands wear either a burqa or a niqab, according to Reuters.
The Netherlands’ new law does allow women to wear face veils on public streets, making it less restrictive than burqa bans in other parts of Europe. But Dutch police can ask women to remove the veil for identification purposes, AP reports.
Green Party senator Ruard Ganzevoort called the law “completely disproportionate.”
“The only effect will be that many of these women will stay at home even more,” said Ganzevoort. “They will not have an opportunity to go to school. They will not have an opportunity to go to learn to swim, and all those things.”