Confusion over burka ban; woman refused at Nijmegen playground

A woman wearing a niqab
A woman wearing a niqabPhoto: djedzura/DepositPhotos

There seems to be some confusion around exactly what the so-called burka ban, implemented in the Netherlands on August 1st, entails. The municipality of Nijmegen had to apologize to a niqab wearing woman on Sunday, after she was stopped at the door of the Leemkuil playground in the city when she and her family wanted to visit, De Gelderlander reports.

The playground is managed by the municipality of Nijmegen. The municipality immediately consulted with the police, and concluded that the ban does not apply to a playground. "We immediately apologized to the woman for this annoying misunderstanding and she was admitted with a free ticket", a municipal spokesperson said to the newspaper. 

The ban, officially called the Partial Ban On Face Covering Clothing Act, bans the wear of face-covering clothing in government buildings, education institutions, healthcare institutions and on public transport. It applies to clothing like burkas, niqabs, balaclavas and motorcycle helmets. 

Lawyer Franc Pommer of the Nijmegen law firm Hekkelman thinks that there has been a miscommunication about the word "public" and this resulted in confusion about where the ban applies. But he doesn't expect many more issues like what happened at the playground. "I expect the opposite", he said to De Gelderlander. "That the law will be difficult to enforce in practice. In public transport in particular, you see a discussion about who is authorized to enforce it."

Famile Arslan, city councilor in The Hague, thinks there will be a few more misunderstandings before everyone is aware of what the ban includes and where. "For the woman who this happened to, it is not fun. But the incident may help to make the final touches", she said to the newspaper. She calls on municipalities to put a clear explanation of the ban on their websites.

The municipality of Nijmegen will visit local businesses and institutions this week to talk about the ban. "The new law is four days old. We thought: we can leave it a while, because not many burkas are worn in Nijmegen", a municipal spokesperson said to the newspaper.