Burqa-Ban in Public Places Enters Into Force in Netherlands

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A new Dutch law has come into force banning face-covering clothing - including the burqa and niqab worn by conservative Muslim women - on public transport, in government buildings and at health and education institutions.

After around 14 years of debate, a burqa ban has come into effect in the Netherlands. A study in 2009 by an University of Amsterdam professor, Annelies Moors, estimated that just 100 women regularly wore a face veil and no more than 400 occasionally did so.

The ban also applies to other face coverings such as full-face helmets or balaclavas. Security officers to ask veiled women first to show her face.

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, who proposed the face-covering veil ban in 2005, welcomed the introduction of the limited ban as an "historic day" and called for it to be expanded to include Islamic headscarves.

Representatives of the transport industry have also said they will not enforce the ban, citing worries over disruption to services if police assistance is required, reports NOS.

"I understand that it is a unusual sight to see a woman walking around in a black niqab and that it can even scare children", Said Bouharrou, Vice President of the National Council of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands, told Efe news.

Pedro Peters, a spokesperson of the RET transport network, deemed the law impractical as he said, "The police have told us the ban is not a priority and that therefore they will not be able to respond inside the usual 30 minutes, if at all".

The Nida party in Rotterdam has said it will pay fines enforced on niqab wearers and has opened an account where people can deposit money.

On the other hand, in Italy (in Novara, near Milan) and Spain (in Catalonia) some limitations have been imposed on the burqa, although not at the state level. "I believe we should now try to take it to the next step", Wilders wrote in a tweet on Thursday, urging that the simple headscarf should be banned as well.

They will not be allowed to go on a metro, bus or tram when the law is observed.

France was the first country in Europe to ban the full veil in 2011.

The Dutch government has insisted that its partial ban doesn't target any religion and that people are free to dress how they want.

When the law was voted in mid a year ago, critics, including Annelies Moors, professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, warned the ban could dissuade some women from entering public spaces.

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