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Netherlands to ban burqas in schools and government offices only

[JURIST] The Dutch government plans to ban burqas [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in schools and government offices, rejecting a proposal by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders [official website, in Dutch] to prohibit wearing burqas in public altogether, according to Wednesday media reports. Wilders submitted a legislative proposal [JURIST report] in July 2007 which would punish those wearing burqas in public with a fine of up to €3,350 euros or 12 days in jail [press release]. Although the issue will be discussed at next week's cabinet meeting, the cabinet has decided that a general public ban on burqas would violate freedom of religion. Wilders, who has previously made controversial remarks against Islam and Muslims in the Netherlands, criticized the government's decision against a public ban. A final decision has not yet been made on the ban, which will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next Friday.

In November 2006, then-Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk [official profile] announced plans to prohibit the public wearing of face coverings [JURIST report] for "security reasons" and to promote the integration of Dutch society. The proposal was met by protests [JURIST report], and in the wake of a national election, was abandoned [JURIST report] in March 2007 by Verdonk's successor. Among the country's 1 million Muslims, the Muslim community has said that only 50 women wear the burqa. Reuters has more.

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