Dutch burqa ban prompts concern for religion in the public square

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Aug 2, 2019 / 02:32 pm (CNA).- A law professor at a Dutch university has noted concerns over the effects of a newly implemented law banning women from wearing burqas in some public places in the country, suggesting it will be to the detriment of religion’s role in the public square.

The Netherlands’ ban on wearing “face-covering clothing” in hospitals, schools, government buildings, and on public transit went into effect Aug. 1. The ban does not mention in particular the burqa, a body- and face-covering garmet, or the niqab, a face veil, worn by some Muslim women.

Violators can be assessed a 150euro ($167) fine.

“This undoubtedly has a chilling effect on their ability to take part in public life,” Dr. Tom Zwart, a professor of law, economics and administration at the University of Utrecht, told Sky News.

A federation of Dutch academic hospitals said that it was “not aware of any cases in which wearing face-covering clothing or a possible ban has led to problems” in healthcare, according to Sky News.

Some forms of religious expression in Europe face legal penalties.

Austria and Bavaria implemented similar bans on wearing burqas or niqabs in some public places in 2017. They have been banned in public in France since 2010.

A Belgian ban on food preparation that is in accord with Jewish and Muslim rules took effect at the beginning of this year.

In a 2017 ruling The Court of Justice of the European Union allowed a qualified ban on hijabs in the workplace.

France’s Universal National Service program for teens, which will become mandatory over the next several years, has drawn serious religious freedom concerns, with critics noting that the program prohibits religious symbols, does not allow conscripts to leave for religious services, and fails to accommodate religious dietary restrictions.

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