Dutch police and other institutions 'may not enforce burqa ban'

Controversial ban on burqas and veils meets with stiff opposition from critics

Friday 02 August - After around 14 years of debate, a ban on burqas and veils has come into effect in the Netherlands.

Several cities as well as hospitals, public transport operators said that they would not abide by it.

Clothing that "covers the face" such as burqas or veils may no longer be worn in public institutions such as schools, hospitals and government offices or on buses and trains from Thursday onwards.

The Interior Ministry urged local authorities and relevant bodies to enforce the ban.

Security officials are now required to tell veiled women to show their faces. If they refuse, they can be denied access to public buildings and face fines of at least 150 euros ($A243).

The ban also applies to other face coverings such as full-face helmets or balaclavas.

Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders called it a 'historic day'. The long-time advocate of the ban told a Dutch radio station that it was the first 'anti-Islam measure' ever instituted in the country.

However, it is unclear whether the ban can be enforced in reality after several cities as well as hospitals, public transport operators and also the police said that they would not abide by it.

France was the first country in Europe to ban the full veil in 2011. Several countries followed suit.

In Denmark, the full-veil ban has been in effect for exactly one year. So far, according to the authorities, fines of between 134 and 1,340 euros have been imposed in 39 cases, including 22 women wearing a burqa, a veil that covers the entire body and face, or a niqab, a full face veil.

In Germany, there have only been isolated and limited bans so far, for example, for the civil service in the state of Hesse.

Many consider full veiling a symbol of the oppression of women in Islam, but critics see the ban as a violation of religious freedom.

In the Netherlands, there are an estimated 150 women who regularly wear the burqa or niqab.

Author's comment: If this 'ban' is a result of legislation having been passed by the Dutch Parliament, then given Parliament's traditional role as 'law-makers' one might be forgiven for assuming that this has now become the law of the land.

One might also be forgiven for asking - what is the point of the police if they are not going to enforce the law? What is the point of the government if it cannot pass laws which are then upheld?

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