Dutch Muslims protest against face veil ban

About 80 people protested outside the Dutch parliament on Thursday against a recent government decision to ban Muslim burqas and face veils, the toughest ban thus far in Europe.

Seven women clad in niqabs – a veil concealing the face except the eyes – and loose robes that covered them from neck to toes, and 20 women in headscarves gathered in front of parliament, which was to convene on Thursday for the first time after national elections were held last week. Around 50 supporters carried banners written with the phrases: “Before you judge me, try hard to know me” and “The first lesson of integration: the constitution is for everyone.”

Earlier this month, the outgoing government agreed to a total ban on burqas and other Muslim face veils in public, citing security concerns. Critics said the move was likely to alienate and victimise the country’s 1 million Muslims.

“Every time there is an election, the thing with the burqa comes up,” said Aishah Bayrat, a 41-year-old teacher and mother of five. “The burqa is a religious thing, nobody should interfere with it.”

Clad in a black and blue niqab, 17-year-old Tamara dismissed official concerns that the robe would make it hard for people to identify the wearer or serve as a cover for criminals and terrorists. “What about Santa Claus? He can go out on the streets with his long beard and we can’t recognise him.”

Reuters, 30 November 2006