The Dutch government is to ban face coverings from 2013, following the lead of France and Belgium. Those flouting the new ruling will face fines of up to 390 euros ($510), according to the National Post
. The Ministry of the Interior released a statement saying "People should be able to look at each other’s faces and recognize each other when they meet.”
The ban, which has been criticized for targeting Muslim women, will make it an offence to wear the burqa or niqab in public places. The ban also applies to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets worn in inappropriate places.
Muslim women will be exempt from the face covering ban inside mosques, and whilst in transit through Dutch airports. The move is seen as largely symbolic as few Muslim women wear the niqab or burka in the Netherlands. However, Leyla Çakir, from Muslim women's rights group Al Nisa, was cited by Muslim Village
criticizing the move. She maintains that women should be allowed the right to choose what to wear, and said “Some women may now well decide to wear a burqa in defiance of the ban, but a number of women are now likely not to leave their home any longer.”
The ban satisfies the calls of populist MP Geert Wilders, who has called for a burqa ban to be introduced as part of his anti-immigration platform. Wilders reacted to the ban by tweeting "fantastic news." The Dutch government issued a statement which said the face covering ban helped women, the NY Daily News
reported. The statement said “Having to wear a burqa or niqab in public goes against equality of men and women. With this legislation, the Cabinet is removing a barrier to these women participating in society.”