Holland may be first European country to ban veil completely
Veil debate reaches Holland. Dutch government proposes bill to ban wearing veil completely, expanding on existing legislation that bans it only on public transportation, public schools. Muslim organizations: Relatively few Muslim women wear veil, but legislation alienates all Muslims from society
Holland's right-wing coalition announced Friday night that it is looking for a way to outlaw any Muslim face veils. The foundations of a new law were already laid at the end of last year when the Dutch parliament authorized a bill banning wearing a face veil on public transportation and in public schools.
Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said that as of now the government is asking to ban the wearing of all face veils in public even though this type of legislation is likely to clash with freedom of religion laws in the country.
"The cabinet finds the wearing of a burka undesirable ... but cannot at present enforce a total ban," she said.
According to her, the current law forbidding face veils and full-body coverings in public isn't enough and there is room to expand it.
If the bill is approved, Holand will be the first European country to place an all-out ban on wearing the veil, even though other countries have forbidden the veil in specific places. Such a law decidedly doesn't jibe with other liberal laws in Holand, which permit smoking drugs, prostitution, and euthanasia, but are an extension of recently legislated stringent immigration laws.
Veil argument takes Europe by storm
Religious tension in Holand increased in 2004 when director Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch Moroccan. Muslim organizations in the country estimate that only 50 out of one million Dutch Muslim women wears the veil, but claim that forbidding it will increase their sense of exclusion and alienation from society.
Ayhan Tonca, chairman of an umbrella group of Dutch Muslim organizations, said, "What the government is doing now is totally disproportionate to the number of women who actually wear the burka."
"The legislation we already have to protect people for security reasons is adequate," he added.
A similar controversy has recently taken hold of Britain when former Foreign Minister Jack Straw published an article in a newspaper in which he wrote that he tends to ask veiled Muslim women to remove their veils before meeting with him.
Prime Minister Tony Blair later backed up Straw, saying that it is a symbol of separation that causes people outside the Muslim community to feel uncomfortable. However, Blair clarified that Muslim women must not be forced not to wear veils.