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UN racism rapporteur slams the Netherlands niqab ban

27th Dec 2019

Nadine Osman

A UN racism rapporteur has criticised the recently implemented niqab ban in the Netherlands as doing, “more harm than good.”

Tendayi Achiume, a rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council, said on October 7 that the small number of women who wear the niqab reported suffering more harassment since the law went into force on August 1.

Achiume said, “The political discourse surrounding it has made clear that Muslim women are its intended targets. This law has no place in a society that prides itself in promoting gender equality.”

In a preliminary report following a visit to the Netherlands, Achiume also touched on the thorny issue of Dutch colonial history.

She said the Government should do more to teach people about the “histories of slavery and colonialism as histories of systematic racial subordination.”

The Netherlands was long seen as a successful multi-ethnic melting pot, but nationalist, anti-Islam and anti-migrant rhetoric has risen in recent years.

Achiume said the country’s reputation as a bastion of free-thinking is standing in the way of progress.“The paradox in the Netherlands is that insistence that equality and tolerance already exist operates as a barrier to achieving this equality in fact,” she said, adding that the country’s reputation for tolerance makes it hard to “mobilise the resources and activities necessary to ensure equality, non-discrimination and inclusion for all.”

Other European countries to outlaw the niqab

• Full-face veils have been illegal in Denmark since August 1, 2018. The Danish Parliament validated the law in May 2018: 75 votes for and 30 against. People who break the law face fines of up to €135, which can increase significantly for repeat offenders.

• Face veils have been banned in Austria since 2017 under a law known as the Law against Wearing Face Veils. The law requires people to show their facial features from chin to hairline. If that area is not visible, they face a fine of up to €150.

• Bulgaria introduced a niqab ban in 2016. Wearers face a fine of up to €750 if they break it. There are some exceptions for people playing sport, at work or in a house of prayer.

• Belgium banned full-face veils in public on July 2011. Anyone who breaks the law risks a fine or up to seven days in jail. An estimated 300 people wear the niqab in Belgium, which is home to around a million Muslims.

• France was the first European country to ban the wearing of the full-face veil in public with a corresponding law in April 2011. To avoid allegations of discrimination, the law makes no explicit mention of religion and is rather vague. It states that ‘no one is allowed to wear clothing in public that allows them to cover their face.’ Religious clothing has been banned in French schools since 2004, including headscarves. Only 2,000 of France’s five million Muslims wear a full-face veil.

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