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sonz
11-20-2006, 07:33 PM
Muslim leaders in the Netherlands strongly denounced a proposed government ban on the Burqa, or the full-face veil, saying that the unwise move is a populist attempt to win the anti-immigration vote, The International Herald Tribune reported.

The Dutch cabinet said on Friday that it was proposing a bill banning clothing that covers the face in public, targeting in particular Muslim women who wear the Burqa, or the Niqab.

The hardline, outgoing, immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, said the cabinet had decided it was "undesirable that face- covering clothing - including the Burqa - is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens."

"In this country, we want to be able to see each other. The ban is a question of security,” she said.

The Burqa ban would be imposed in public and "semi-public" places such as schools, courts, ministries, and trains, her spokesman Martin Bruinsma said.

Before the law comes into effect, police would be allowed to ban Burqas in buses for security reasons.

The Burqa is an Islamic veil covering the entire face and body, but the Niqab leaves the eye area clear.

Although many Muslim women in the Netherlands wear the Islamic headscarf, or the Hijab, which covers the hair and the neck, less than 50 women in the country wear head-to-tow clothing, according to Muslim groups.

“Infringement on the freedom of religion”

The announcement from the outgoing government surprised many politicians, because the twin issues of Islam and immigration had barely featured in the campaign.

Dutch Muslim leaders also expressed concern over the proposed ban, denouncing it as “ridiculous” and saying that infringes religious freedom.

"They are going to have to find a better argument than security. It is an infringement on the freedom of religion," said Ahmed Markouch, a Moroccan mosques representative.

Muhammad Hamidi, a spokesman for Rotterdam's Moroccan community, also said that “the way of dressing is a question of personal freedom…

“There are not many people who wear Burqas: maybe 10 in Rotterdam and 10 in Amsterdam. But there are lots of people without work. Burqas are not a problem. This is populism, playing with the feelings of the people."

Instead of banning Burqas, Mr Hamidi called on the Dutch government to tackle the main problems confronting immigrant communities in Holland's big cities.

"People without education and without qualifications find it difficult to get work and earn money. It's a vicious circle," he said.

Ayhan Tonca, spokesman for the CMO, a group representing Muslims in the Netherlands, also denounced the measure as “ridiculous” and a "big law for a small problem".

"The existing laws are sufficient for dealing with the problems. It's over the top, a law for a dozen people!" she said.

Many doubt whether the Burqa ban proposal, which comes just days before the country’s legislative elections, will ever come into force.

Although the Dutch parliament has already indicated it will approve the measure, there have been doubts about the legality of the move and about how popular it would be with the general public.

"Iron Rita," as Verdonk has been dubbed because of her hard-hitting immigration policies, said that the legal questions about the ban have been resolved but it remains unclear whether the new parliament elected this week will approve such a measure.
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