A ban on the burqa in the Netherlands appears to have fallen flat on its first day with Dutch police indicating they are unwilling to enforce the new law.
On Thursday the Netherlands became the latest in a string of European nations to ban face-covering clothing in public. The law effectively bans the burqa and niqab face veils worn by Muslim women.
Under the rule women are fined for wearing the niqab or burqa on public transport or in government buildings including health and education buildings. They face a fine of €150 (Dh6,090) if found in contravention of the legislation which was passed Dutch parliament in June 2018, the Associated Press reported.
Attempts had been made by one Islamic group in Rotterdam to stymie the ban after it announced it would pay the fines of any women found in violation of the rule. However, the law appears to have been rendered completely ineffective following indications from law enforcement over how it will implement the ban.
RET, an organisation representing a number of transport companies in the Netherlands, has said it would not force its bus conductors or train drivers to enforce the restrictive law if the police would not be offering support.
“The police have told us the ban is not a priority and that therefore they will not be able to respond inside the usual 30 minutes, if at all,” RET said in a statement. “It is not up to transport workers to impose the law and hand out fines.”
Similarly the Netherlands' national hospitals’ federation has said its staff will not stop any woman wearing the full face veil from using its services or entering its buildings. “We are not aware of any cases in which wearing face-covering clothing or a possible ban has led to problems,” the hospitals’ group said in a statement.
The ban, which has been hailed by the far-right in the Netherlands, has always been largely symbolic. Women who wear the burqa or niqab in country number in the hundreds.
Despite indications the ban has been a widespread failure, the Netherlands' far-right figurehead Geert Wilders tweeted that he would like legislation to go further.
“Today the burka ban became law. Now we can start working on the next step: a headscarf ban in The Netherlands,” he wrote in a post on the social media site Thursday.