The Netherlands has approved a ban on face-covering garments which include the niqab and the burqa in some public settings.
The “limited prohibition” applies in educational and health institutions like universities, hospitals and government buildings, as well as on public transport.
The country’s Parliament upper chamber made the final approval on Tuesday 26 June.
The Dutch government claimed people would still have the freedom on how to dress, except when it is required to have full facial contact, like in health and educational-related circumstances.
The ban does not apply to public streets, although police can ask an individual to remove face-covering garments for identification.
The far-right Islamophobic politician Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party championed the law as a major victory, while senator Marjolein Faber-Van de Klashorst called it “a historical day because this is the first step to de-Islamise the Netherlands”.
She added: “This is the first step and the next step is to close all the mosques in the Netherlands.”
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places in April 2011, seven years after it introduced a law prohibiting overt religious symbols in state schools.
It was followed a few months later by Belgium, which outlawed any clothing that obscures a person’s identity in public.
Full or partial bans have since been passed in Bulgaria, Austria, the southern German state of Bavaria, and Denmark.