AMSTERDAM – A Netherlands expected ban on Muslim women full-face niqab is casting its shadows on Dutch Muslim women, who feel targeted by extremist voices who rip their religious rights.
“It’s like that poem: ‘First they came for the Jews and I did nothing, then they came for me, and there was no one to speak for me’,” Nada, a 21-year-old Dutch Muslim university student, told The Independent.
“Mum’s at home crying and it’s like, first they came for the burqas, and what’s next? Any woman wearing a headscarf? Any woman with brown skin?” Nada, not her real name, added.
The young Muslim woman was talking about the Dutch government’s decision to partially ban the burqa in public spaces.
Though the ban still needs to be approved by the Dutch Senate before it becomes law, with 132 out of 150 MPs voting in favor of the bill, it is expected to pass easily.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists that the bill “does not have any religious background”.
He added that helmets and ski masks will also be banned and claimed that the ban will only apply in specific situations where “it is essential for people to be seen [and] for security reasons”.
Despite Rutte’s claims, the bill’s campaigners have focused on the apparent dangers of women wearing veils.
Supporters of the bill include Geert Wilders, a high-profile anti-Islam Dutch politician who is currently on trial for hate speech against Dutch Moroccans.
The trial started after he claimed to hate Islam and said publicly that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims.”
The Netherlands is not the only European country to place restrictions on Islamic veils.
Over the past years, France, Belgium and some parts of Switzerland imposed fines on women who wear full-face veils in public spaces.
The Bulgarian government introduced a similar ban in 2016, threatening women who wore the burqa or nijab with benefit sanctions. A recent YouGov poll found that 57 per cent of the British public wants a similar ban in the UK.
Despite the Dutch government’s claims that the burqa ban was introduced to stop radicalization, Muslims feel targeted by politicians who want to control their appearance.
“I feel attacked – they’ll find a reason to ban burqas and then headscarves until they don’t even need to justify attacking Muslims’ rights,” Nada said.
Nada’s fear seems justified.
Politicians like Wilders present the public with a very limited view of what constitutes terrorism, ignoring all the terrorists acts committed by radicalized Christians.
He also disregards attempts by Muslim communities to protect their children from radicalization and distance themselves from terrorist groups.
Hind, Nada’s cousin and fellow university student, does not wear burqa or niqab.
Both girls choose to wear the hijab for religious reasons and Hind says that if they were banned she would feel unable to go out in public.
“It’s a sign of respect. If I had to go out without my scarf I’d feel exposed and like I wasn’t being respectful. We’ve got family in France and the mum of the family is scared to go out,” she said.
“She only feels comfortable in her burqa and now she feels like a prisoner in her own home.”