Amsterdam mayor not calling for burqa ban
Cohen notes that, other than in France, the separation between church and state does not mean religious expressions should be banned from the public space.
“Personally I find it terrible to see a woman walk about in a burqa. But whether or not I like it is not a criterium by which to forbid it,” Cohen says.
However, in situations where contact with other people is necessary the situation is different, according to the mayor.
“I agree with the notion that if you cannot find work because of the burqa you can also not turn up for benefits.”
In 2006 fellow labour party member Ahmed Aboutaleb called for a similar measure. (In January 5, 2009 Aboutaleb, a practising Muslim with a dual Netherlands-Moroccan citizenship, took office as mayor of Rotterdam).
A year later an Amsterdam court reversed a decision by Diemen, a small town near Amsterdam, to block welfare benefits of a burqa-wearing woman.
In response the Netherlands’ Lower House adopted a motion that makes it possible to limit the amount of welfare paid to women who cannot find jobs because they insist on wearing a burqa.
In 2005, TIME magazine named Job Cohen as one of the European heroes of 2005.
The European edition of Time named Cohen as one of its three “hate busters” of 2005 for his response to the murder in Amsterdam of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist.
Meanwhile many Amsterdammers consider his approach to Muslim immigrants who refuse to integrate into Dutch society too soft.