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Netherlands to ban burqa

The Cabinet of the Netherlands announced on Friday that a ban on burqas [JURIST news archive] in the Netherlands will go forward later this year. The ban, proposed in September [JURIST report] and heavily supported by Geert Wilders' [personal website; JURIST news archive] anti-Islam Freedom Party, is aimed at prohibiting burqas and other face coverings. Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen [official profile, in Dutch] denied that the ban was meant for religious clothing [Reuters report] and noted that the ban will also include motorcycle helmets and balaclavas when they are worn in inappropriate locations. The proposed legislation will not prohibit face coverings in mosques. Verhagen said the purpose behind the ban is to stop people from being able to commit crimes and remain undetected by concealing their identities and covering their faces. The Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition, the majority party in parliament, has agreed to propose a modified ban next week which would impose fines on people who violate the ban. The ban must still pass both houses of parliament in order to be enacted as law.

If enacted, the Netherlands will become the second European country, after France [text, in French], to ban the burqa. A French court in September first enforced its own ban [JURIST report] when it fined two Muslim women for violating the controversial French law. Although more than 90 women were previously cited by police, the fines are the first time a French court has enforced the law passed in April. The Netherlands is not the only country to follow France's lead by attempting to ban face coverings. In August, an Italian parliamentary commission approved a draft law [JURIST report] that bans women from wearing full-face veils in public. In July, Belgium implemented a law banning women from wearing the burqa [JURIST report] in public, with violators facing the possibility of fines or up to seven days in jail.

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