Netherlands joins growing chorus for burqa ban

The Dutch government today promised to ban face coverings, including burqas or niqabs, by next year, Reuters reported.

The minority Liberal-Christian governing party denied, though, that the law is religiously motivated. The ban will also apply to such things as balaclavas, ski masks and helmets with shields worn inappropriately in public.

"People should be able to look at each other's faces and recognize each other when they meet," a statement from the interior affairs ministry said, according to Reuters.

The coalition government that rules the Netherlands, however, includes the pro-Dutch Freedom Party. They will submit the bill next week, Reuters said. Anyone punished under the law faces a 390 euro ($510) fine.

Geert Wilders, who heads the Freedom Party, took to Twitter to express his satisfaction.

"Great news: burqa ban will finally come to the Netherlands! Proposal approved by ministers' council. Excellent!”

Wilders recently admonished Queen Beatrix for wearing a headscarf while traveling in the Middle East.

Italy and Belgium are taking similar steps, while France has a ban in place. In Canada, Muslim women can’t wear face coverings during citizenship ceremonies.

More from GlobalPost: Italy passes draft law to ban burqas

While there are about 1 million Muslims in the Netherlands, a country with 16.7 million people, only a few hundred are thought to wear veils, the Associated Press said.

A women’s rights advocate said the decision stunned her.

“You are taking away women’s right of self-determination, and it is all based on fear,” Leyla Cakir, who leads the Muslim women’s group Al Nisa, told the AP.

More from GlobalPost: France issues first face veil fines 

The Dutch government took the opposite stance.

“Having to wear a burqa or niqab in public goes against equality of men and women,” the government said. “With this legislation, the Cabinet is removing a barrier to these women participating in society.”

More from GlobalPost: Racism in Europe's bastion of liberal tolerance? 

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