Dutch bracing for Islamic backlash over plans to ban the burqa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The Dutch government has sent its embassies prepared responses on a proposed law that would ban head-to-toe Islamic robes, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday, in an attempt to head off anger in Muslim nations.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk announced the planned measure Friday. She cited security concerns and the difficulty of communicating while wearing a burqa as reasons for the ban, which also covers clothing such as ski masks and full-face helmets. The law, when drafted, must be approved by parliament.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar called the move “imbalanced treatment” of Muslims.

“Why can’t people have the freedom to dress the way they want?” he said. “The world will be a better place if we understood diversity.”

Herman van Gelderen, spokesman for Foreign Minister Ben Bot, said Dutch diplomats in Kuala Lumpur would inform Syed Hamid “about the content of the proposal and the procedure and why we do it.”

Other embassies around the world also have been sent details of the planned law so they “can respond to critical remarks or whatever,” Van Gelderen added.

His comments came after the Algemeen Dagblad reported Monday that a Foreign Ministry memo had warned of a possible backlash in Islamic nations against the legislation, that has been branded a burqa ban.

Van Gelderen said the report appeared to be based on a briefing document written for Bot nine months ago before a visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. At that time, the Islamic world was in an uproar over the publication in Denmark of cartoons that many Muslims said insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

Late last year a majority of Dutch lawmakers approved a motion calling for a burqa ban and the government has been working since then to formulate legislation.

In a sign of Dutch sensitivity to Muslim reaction overseas, Van Gelderen stressed the new law would ban all face-covering clothes in public places, not just burqas.

It remains unclear when the law will be ready for debate. The Dutch go to the polls Wednesday in national elections that could tip the balance of the 150-seat lower house of parliament more to the left.

The government’s plans sparked no protests in the Netherlands, where a tiny minority of the 1 million Muslims wear a burqa. However, a moderate Muslim group condemned the move and the opposition Labor Party suggested it was an election stunt to win right-wing votes for Verdonk’s Liberal Party.

Van Gelderen said the Foreign Ministry had issued a memo early this year about plans to make a sequel to a movie called “https://www.religionnewsblog.com/9287/watch-the-film-theo-van-gogh-was-murdered-for,” which many Muslims in the Netherlands had branded as blasphemous.

The director of the original film, Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamic extremist in 2004.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who fled Somalia before settling in the Netherlands and becoming an outspoken critic of radical Islam, wrote the script for “Submission” and has said she plans a sequel. Hirsi Ali, who now lives in the United States, moved between safe houses with round-the-clock police and secret service protection after Van Gogh’s murder.


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, AP, via the International Herald Tribune, Nov. 20, 2006, http://www.iht.com

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday November 21, 2006.
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