Netherlands parliament approves partial burqa ban in public places

Netherlands parliament approves partial burqa ban in public places

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MPs in the Netherlands have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on wearing face-covering Islamic veils in some public places, including schools, hospitals, government buildings and on public transport.

The rule – which will outlaw all face coverings including ski-masks and helmets – was approved by 132 members of the 150-seat house.

It will now go before the Senate, where it must be approved before becoming law.

Under the law, the burqa could still be worn on the streets. But an outright ban is one of the central demands of the anti-Islam opposition Freedom Party, which is leading in polls ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

Freedom Party founder Geert Wilders called the limited ban, “a step in the right direction”, adding that he will push for a complete ban if his party is elected next year, The Associated Press reported.

“Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport,” the government said in a statement last year after the cabinet backed Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk’s bill.

It said it had “tried to find a balance between people’s freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognisable communication.”

The ban only applies “in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen” or for security reasons, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists at the time.

“The bill does not have any religious background,” he added.

Those caught flouting the ban can be fined up to 405 euros (£343).