THE HAGUE: Dutch Muslims on Saturday hit out at a proposed government ban of face veils, saying it was over the top, ill-conceived and infringed religious rights.
The Dutch cabinet on Friday said it was proposing a bill banning clothing that covers the face in public, targeting in particular Muslim woman wearing the burqa.
The burqa is an Islamic veil covering the entire face and body and a mesh screen to see through, while the niqab is a veil covering the face but leaving the eye area clear. The garments are worn by a few dozen women in the Netherlands.
Rita Verdonk, minister of immigration and integration, said the bill proposed a ban on the basis that covering the face constituted a risk to public order and safety.
The ban would be imposed in public and "semi-public" places such as schools, courts, ministries and trains, her spokesman Martin Bruinsma said.
"In this country, we want to be able to see each other. The ban is a question of security," daily De Telegraaf quoted on Saturday the minister as saying.
But representatives of the country's Muslim population were unimpressed.
"They are going to have to find a better argument than security. It is an infringement on the freedom of religion," said Ahmed Markouch, a Moroccan mosques representative.
He predicted that the bill would go down badly with the country's sizeable Muslim population, "because it comes from Verdonk, not because they are in favour of the burqa".