By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The Dutch Cabinet voted to draft a bill to enforce a ban on wearing the Islamic burqa in various government buildings and institution. Citing what were described as security concerns, the government in a statement declared “Face-covering clothing will in [the] future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated to journalists: “The bill does not have any religious background.”
The government’s statement further stated that it “tried to find a balance between people’s freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognizable communication.” It will however send the draft bill to the Council of State, the highest constitutional court, for review. Thereafter, Parliament will debate the bill and mull drafting statutory law.
A previous bill calling for a complete ban of the burqa in public places was set aside.
Those held in violation could be fined up to €405.
Likely an influencing factor, France legislated a burqa ban in 2010 which was ultimately upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. The court rejected claims the law breached religious freedom. Switzerland and Belgium passed similar statutes.
Dutch state broadcasting company NOS claimed that only one hundred to five hundred women in The Netherlands wore burqas with most only occasionally.
It would be curious to see how such a ban will be enforced. Security matters aside what would serve as a legitimate government function of requiring faces to be shown in government buildings or other institutions?
Yet the debate tends to focus on religious freedom. An interesting constitutional challenge, if such an issue comes to the forefront in the United States, would be an aggrieved person claiming a right to privacy. Those choosing to wear a burqa often cite modesty as a significant factor. To some it might seem disingenuous to under penalty of arrest require in people to wear undergarments in public for the purpose of legislated modesty and then deny modesty to those who wish to cover other body parts.
Nevertheless with the European example, it is hard to accept that such laws are drafted out of anything other than worry of Islam in those nations.
By Darren Smith
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