The Netherlands’ “burqa ban” has backfired on its first day of implementation after Dutch transport companies and the police voiced unwillingness to enforce it.
Under the conditions of the Partial Ban on Face-Covering Clothing Act, the wearing of the niqab and burqas, as well as ski masks, full-face helmets and balaclavas is prohibited in public buildings including hospitals, schools and public transport.
Those who are found wearing the banned clothing will be given the option to remove the item or face a police fine of between €150 and €415 (£135 – £380). There is no ban on wearing the aforementioned garments in the street.
But the law has been undermined after police said its enforcement was not a priority and voiced their discomfort with the idea that veiled Muslim women could be prevented from entering a police station to make unrelated complaints.
Transport companies also said in a response to the police position that they would not ask their staff on busses, metros and trains to take on an enforcement role in the absence of police officers.
Pedro Peters, a spokesman for the RET transport network, said: “The police have told us the ban is not a priority and that therefore they will not be able to respond inside the usual 30 minutes, if at all.
“This means that if a person wearing a burqa or a niqab is challenged trying to use a service, our staff will have no police backup to adjudicate on what they should do. It is not up to transport workers to impose the law and hand out fines.”
Staff have been instructed to inform Muslim women wearing the burqa or niqab of the law but to allow entry onto public transportation.
Whilst there isn’t an exact number of Muslim women who wear niqab or burqas in the Netherlands, a study in 2009 by Professor Annelies Moors of the University of Amsterdam estimated that just 100 women regularly wore a face veil and no more than 400 occasionally wore it.
The law was passed in 2016 by Mark Rutte’s coalition government, mainly in response to the growing popularity of the anti-Islam Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders.
The Netherlands is the sixth country in the EU to prohibit the niqab and the burqa in public buildings, which was first started by France in 2011.
Rotterdam’s Nida party has said it will pay fines enforced on Muslim women wearing the face veil, and has opened an account where people can deposit money.
Algerian entrepreneur and activist, Rachid Nekkaz, also said he would cover the costs of fines.
Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, has voiced her dismay at the law and the city’s authorities are expected to ignore it.