A ban on wearing face-covering garments such as a burqa or niqab in government buildings, schools and on public transport comes into effect in the Netherlands on Thursday.
The ban has been 13 years in the making and dates back to the time Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV party propped up a minority government formed by Mark Rutte’s VVD and the Christian Democrats.
But much remains unclear about how the ban will work in practice, with public transport firms, hospitals and even the police saying enforcing the ban, which will affect no more than 100 to 400 women, will not be a priority.
There are also many grey areas. While the ban will be in force in hospitals, it will not apply in residential parts of healthcare institutions because they are seen as private areas, broadcaster NOS said.
The Rijksmuseum will be able to stop burqa wearers from entering, but the ban won’t apply in private museums such as Moco in Amsterdam.
Public transport chiefs have told staff that while they can inform burqa and niqab wearers that they are breaking the law, they would need to involve the police to refuse them entry.
‘We never asked for this law and the practice [of wearing niqabs] has never caused problems.’ Pedro Peters of the public transport association told the NRC. ‘Transport must always go on. We are not going to stop trams and metros because someone is wearing a burqa or motorbike helmet.’
The police have also said they will ‘not drive after a tram in which someone is sitting who is breaking the ban on face-covering clothing,’ NOS reported.