The Dutch cabinet has approved a proposal for a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils on public transport and in public areas such as schools and hospitals.
After the cabinet backed a bill by the interior minister, Ronald Plasterk, the government said in a statement on Friday: “Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport.”
The ban would not apply to wearing the burqa or the niqab on the street, only for security reasons or “in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen”, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, told journalists after a cabinet meeting.
He said: “The bill does not have any religious background.” The proposal will be sent to a panel of legal advisers for assessment.
The government said it had “tried to find a balance between people’s freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognizable communication”. It said the cabinet “sees no reason for a general ban that would apply to all public places”.
A previous bill that proposed banning face-covering veils on the street will be withdrawn. It dated from Rutte’s previous government, which was supported by the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders.
It was agreed that a new bill would be drawn up by the coalition partners of Rutte’s VVD party and the PvdA party when they formed a coalition in 2012.
Those flouting the ban, if it is enforced, could be fined up to €405.
NOS, the state broadcaster, said that between 100 and 500 women in the Netherlands wear the burqa, most of them only occasionally.