Dutch Partial Ban on Islamic Veil in Public Spaces

David Fernandez-Rojo |

In my previous post I analyzed the first ruling at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), “S.A.S v. France”, concerning the full-face veil. The ECtHR introduced the principle “living together” as a legitimate aim to ban the burqa and niqab in France, on the basis that wearing the full-face veil hinders communication among individuals. I thought that ruling was dangerously opening the door to prohibit the full-face veil in other countries. Last Friday, the Dutch cabinet approved a proposal for a partial ban on face-covering Islamic veils on public transport and in public areas such as schools and hospitals.

imagesThe recent legitimate aim, “living together”, introduced by the ECtHR at “S.A.S v. France”, seems to justify a general prohibition of the Islamic full-face veil. However, I believe that these types of generalized prohibitions, apart from dangerously opening the door to prohibiting the full-face veil in other countries, will not eradicate a tradition with strong cultural and religious roots among Muslim women. Hidden under the disguise of a general prohibition is not only a fear of discrimination, but an apprehension to pluralism at its deepest core, which makes uncovering the veil a more comfortable option for westerners. This hesitation to what is foreign is that what must be altered, to learn to value and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of that which is different. It is only when foreign ideas are viewed with acceptance and respect under a universal vision, that integration and mutual tolerance will thrive, steering far away from prejudice and inequality.[1] In fact, a general ban implies shunning that which opposes one’s views, with the idea that the foreigner should adopt the traditions of the host country. Therefore, instead of restricting such a manifestation of religion, efforts should shift toward a more inclusive approach to strengthen dialogue between states and the Muslim organizations. Such an approach would encourage communication and understanding of wearing the full-face veil throughout Europe, promoting values of respect, acceptance, and coexistence in a social, plural, and democratic state.

This blog post is based on the research I conducted for my Master Thesis at Erasmus University Rotterdam, which led to the publication “Pertinence of a General Prohibition of the Burqa and Niqab in Spain: A Human Rights Perspective” in the Yearbook on Humanitarian Action and Human Rights.

[1] See Dogru v. France, §62. See also S.A.S. v. France, §128