Dutch cabinet backs partial Islamic burqa ban
The Dutch cabinet on Friday approved a partial ban on wearing the face-covering Islamic veil, including in schools, hospitals and on public transport.
"Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport," the government said in a statement after the cabinet backed interior minister Ronald Plasterk's bill.
The ban does not apply to wearing the burqa on the street, but only "in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen" or for security reasons, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists after the cabinet meeting.
"The bill does not have any religious background," Rutte said.
The government said it had "tried to find a balance between people's freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognisable communication."
A previous bill banning the burqa even on the street and dating from Rutte's last government, which was supported by anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders, will be withdrawn.
The government said it "sees no reason for a general ban that would apply to all public places."
It was agreed that a new bill would be drawn up by the coalition partners of Rutte's Liberal VVD party and the Labour PvdA when they formed their coalition in 2012.
Those flouting the ban can be fined up to 405 euros (around $450).
State broadcaster NOS said that between 100 and 500 women in the Netherlands wear the burqa, most of them only occasionally.