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Netherlands niqāb ban leads to surge in Islamophobic attacks

30th Oct 2020

Nadine Osman

The Netherlands so-called ‘niqāb ban’ has led to a surge in physical and verbal abuse against Muslims, according to a report published by the Stichting Meld Islamofobie on September 21.

The Stichting Meld Islamofobie (Report Islamophobia Foundation) , which is lobbying for the abolition of the ban, has called on Parliament to reconsider the law banning face coverings on public transport and in buildings including schools and hospitals. Between 200 and 400 women in the Netherlands are estimated to wear the niqāb, a garment that covers everything but the eyes. Since August 1 last year they face being fined €150 if they breach the ban.

The Netherlands has approved a ban on wearing “face-covering clothing” in some public settings. The ban applies on public transport and in education institutions, health institutions such as hospitals and government buildings. The country’s Upper Chamber Parliament made the final approval in a vote in January.

‘Muslim women with and without face veils say they have been the target of Islamophobia more frequently since the law was introduced,’ the organisation wrote in its annual report.

‘They are mostly targeted in places where the law does not apply such as shops and playgrounds and the police are not always properly informed about what the law says, meaning Muslim women do not have confidence in them.’

The foundation said the ban had also sparked online ‘witch hunts’, citing an article by the Algemeen Dagblad (one of the country’s largest circulating newspapers) which demonstrated to its readers how they could make a ‘citizen’s arrest’ if they saw the law was not being enforced.

‘There were no massive manhunts, but there was a wave of verbal and physical Islamophobic attacks on Muslim women’ reported the foundation, and children were involved in around half of the incidents, mostly as witnesses.
“They have had to watch their mothers in face veils become the target of verbal aggression, comments and violence,” a spokesman said.

It said the law had created problems rather than solving them, describing it as ‘gesture politics with far-reaching consequences for Muslim women, who wear face veils,’ and has started a petition for its abolition. The cabinet is due to evaluate the law in 2022.

Islam is the second largest religion in the Netherlands, after Christianity, practised by 5 per cent of the population according to 2018 estimates.

Muslims reside in the four major cities of the country, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. An estimated 140,000 Muslims reside in the capital where they form around 17 percent of the population. Half of these Muslims are predominantly Arabic and Berber-speaking communities from the Maghreb region, Egypt and the Middle East. Turks make up 25 percent of the Muslim population in Amsterdam. There are also relatively many Turks in Enschede, Arnhem and Zaanstad.

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