Muslims in the Netherlands will no longer be able to cover their faces in public after Dutch parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban burqas, balaclavas and ski-masks in public.
The law – which bans burqas in public spaces including schools, hospitals, government buildings and public transport – was approved by 132 members of the 150-seat house.
Muslim women caught flouting the new law will be fined 405 euros ($429).
Under the new law, the burqa can be worn in private, but the Freedom Party, currently leading national polls ahead of an election in March, believes the burqa is incompatible with European values and is proposing a total ban in the country.
Freedom Party founder Geert Wilders called the limited ban, “a step in the right direction“, adding that he will push for a complete ban if his party is elected next year, The Associated Press reported.
“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 last year after the cabinet backed Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk’s bill.
It 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.”
“The bill does not have any religious background,” he added.
The Independent reports: the Netherlands joins several other European countries that have introduced restrictions on Islamic veils, despite numerous challenges from those who say the laws restrict religious expression.
France introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2010, resulting in only a handful of arrests since then.
The European Court of Human Rights last year supported the French ban, rejecting arguments that banning veils breached religious freedom.
Under the French legislation, women wearing full-face veils in public spaces can be fined up to 150 euros (£127).
Belgium and some parts of Switzerland have followed France’s lead and similar bans have been considered in other European countries.
Under a Bulgarian law, introduced this year, women who wear a burqa or niqab face a fine of €770 (£665) and benefit sanctions.
The move was condemned by Amnesty International as “part of a disturbing trend of intolerance, xenophobia and racism in Bulgaria”.
The Norwegian government is considering banning the burqa from schools and universities, despite there being few women who wear face-covering Islamic dress in the country.
Senior politicians in Germany have also hinted at the possibility of a similar ban, while a recent YouGov poll revealed around 57% of the British public would be in favour of the government outlawing the burqa.