No burka ban fines so far; MPs critical, Organizations worried about aggression

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

Since the Partial Ban on Face-Covering Clothing was implemented on August 1st, banning clothing items like burkas and balaclavas in public transport, hospitals, education- and government buildings, no violators have been fined, RTL Nieuws reports after speaking to institutions where the ban applies. A number of organizations raised concerns about increased aggression and hostility against women who wear burkas and niqabs. Political parties like the VVD, CDA, PVV and SP blame the lack of fines on how the ban was implemented.

So far there have been 35 reports of niqab wearers in public transport, a spokesperson on behalf of all public transport companies said to RTL nieuws. "In two cases the police had to be called in", the spokesperson said, likely referring to incidents on a bus in Limburg and a train in Rotterdam. No fines have been issued in public transit as far as the spokesperson knows. "The incidents caused a lot of attention. Especially on social media."

As far as the Dutch Association of Hospitals knows, there have been "zero reports of incidents", a spokesperson said to the broadcaster.

The Discrimination Affairs Office, Islamic party NIDA, and the Collective Against Islamophobia are also not aware of any fines. But all of them told RTL that they are receiving signals of a growing aggression against Muslim women on the street since the introduction of the law. "People are abusing the a law to address, intimidate or insult Muslim women with a headscarf", Abdou Menebhi of the collective said to the broadcaster. "The atmosphere and climate have become harsher. We receive reports from Muslim women all over the country who are being approached aggressively."

Discrimination hotlines are receiving similar signals, Frederique Janss of the Discrimination Affairs Office said. "Muslim women with headscarves often have to deal with aggression because of their headscarves. Unfortunately, many see that as everyday practice. Since the introduction of the burka law, this has become more intense. Annoying comments, angry looks or abusive words; it is increasingly the order of the day."

Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations will discuss the ban with the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of parliament, on Thursday. Many parties think she failed in her duty to properly implement this law, according to the Telegraaf. Even before the ban was implemented, cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam said that enforcement would not have top priority. Representatives from schools, transport companies and healthcare institutions also indicated that the ban is mainly perceived as a nuisance, according to the newspaper. 

"The law is crystal clear, but the implementation of the Minister can be called lousy", VVD parliamentarian Dennis Wiersma said to the newspaper. 

CDA parliamentarian Harry van der Molen called it "unacceptable" that the law is not being enforced. He wants Ollongren to make it crystal clear to all concerned that burkas ar prohibited in the involved areas, the Telegraaf writes. "The minister does not have the partners on a lead, but is responsible for the proper implementation of the law."

PVV parliamentarian Martin Bosma called the way in which the ban was implemented "sabotage", and said that Ollongren did not lift a finger to stop it. SP MP Jasper van Dijk said that he thinks the Minister "did not do her best". "It doesn't deserve a beauty prize at all", he said.