The Dutch government on Friday agreed to introduce a partial ban on the wearing of full-face veils in public places, the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
The proposed ban, which must be approved by parliament before it can become law, would apply to all face-covering clothing, including ski-masks and helmets, on public transport and in schools, hospitals and government offices.
The measure “had nothing to do with religion,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte clarified to journalists in The Hague after the proposed measure was passed by the cabinet.
“In a free country like the Netherlands, everyone has the right to dress how they choose, no matter what others think. That freedom is only limited in situations when it is essential for people to look at each other,” the statement said.
Anti-Islam opposition politician Geert Wilders, whose far right policies have won him widespread support among Dutch voters, has long sought a ban on face veils and burqas. Wilders told Dutch television on Friday the proposed measure was “weak”.
Only a few hundred women in the Netherlands veil themselves completely, but Rutte said such laws were needed to “enforce values” of Dutch society.
France banned full-face veils in 2010, in a move that was upheld last year by the European Court of Human Rights.