[JURIST] Protestors demonstrated Thursday outside the Dutch Parliament building against the Netherlands' plan to completely ban [JURIST report] the wearing of the full-length Muslim burqa [Wikipedia backgrounder] and the niqab [BBC backgrounder], the Muslim headscarf for women that leaves only the eyes visible. Twenty-seven of the approximately 80 demonstrators wore one of the garments targeted for prohibition in the proposed legislation. The government, which already prohibits wearing burqas and other religious dress [JURIST news archive] that covers the entire body in public schools and transportation, is pushing for the total ban as an anti-terror security measure. Although only about 50 Dutch residents wear the burqa or niqab and would be affected by the prohibition, opponents contend that the legislation will further divide the Netherlands, which has in place the strictest immigration controls in Europe.
Earlier this month, Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk [official profile, in Dutch] said the government cannot currently enforce a total ban [JURIST report] on the garments because of laws governing religious freedom. Verdonk, known domestically as the "Iron Lady" for her tough anti-immigration initiatives, first floated [JURIST report] the ban last year and a majority of lawmakers endorsed a ban [NOS report] in December. Reuters has more.