Netherlands has banned face-covering veils in public spaces like schools, hospitals, and public transit. The ban, instituted by the Dutch government, is likely to go into effect by January 1 next year. The ban was put into place on Tuesday, when a Dutch court banned the burqa, a garment that covers the entire body, and the niqab, a face veil, worn mostly by Muslim women.
Although, the ban also criminalizes wearing ski masks in public, it is quite obviously a direct deterrence to Muslim women who cover their faces. Those who don’t abide by the ban will be subject to a fine of 405 euros, or about $472.
The ban has been welcomed by right-wing Dutch politician. Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam politician has been advocating the ban for a decade now. Another member of his party, Sen. Marjolein Faber-Van de Klashorst expressed hope that this was the first step in a broader campaign, the next phase of which would be to shut down all mosques in Netherlands.
Klashorst was also elated at the prospect to “de-Islamize the Netherlands”.
Netherlands is not the first country to try and ban face veils. Just last month, Denmark banned face veils from July.
In 2011, France had become the first country to ban niqabs. Quebec in Canada bars people wearing face veils from receiving public services or serving the government. The proponents of the ban justify it by citing security reasons, and the need to be able to identify the faces of threats to national security. Others say that Muslims can only “assimilate” into a foreign culture by breaking off their links with their religion. There are many, like Klashort, who are suspicious of Muslim attempts to “Islamize Netherlands” simply by existing the way they wish to.
However, as sociologists note, these measures only make things harder for Muslim women. Banning face veils does not mean women liberation. Instead, it means that women who feel comfortable in participating in public lives from behind a veil now stay at home. The ban conveniently ignores that Muslim womanhood and its relation to niqab does not always satisfy a Western hunger to “rescue” Muslim women.
In Netherlands, the ban comes at the heels of rising intolerance against Muslims. In January, the Netherlands decided to sacrifice the peace of many Muslims for the “freedom of speech” of a few. In June, a right-wing group was allowed to do a pork roast in front of a mosque just as Muslims prepared to break their fast. The gesture soured Dutch relations with Turkey, whose EU minister Ömer Çelik condemned the act as the most “immoral” ever in the history of hate crimes.
Thumb/Banner Credits: Reuters