UN criticises the Netherlands’ burqa ban
The UN Racism Rapporteur, Tendayi Achiume, slams the Netherlands’ partial ban on face-covering clothing, which includes Islamic clothing like the burqa and the niqab, saying that it discriminates against Muslim women.
The Dutch “burqa ban”
The ban was first proposed back in 2005 by the far-right politician Geert Wilders and was passed by the Dutch government last year. It came into effect two months ago in August and, in accordance with the ban, people must be recognisable in public areas, including public transport and public buildings like hospitals and schools.
The ban has made it illegal to wear articles of clothing that completely or partially obscure the face. This includes motorbike helmets and hoods as well as Islamic religious garments, such as the burqa. Anyone who is not recognisable in public can expect a fine of 150 euros and may be asked to leave the area by the police or remove the offending item.
UN Special Rapporteur slams the ban and the Netherlands
Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s expert on racism, said that the ban represented a “consolidation of Islamophobia” in the Netherlands. In her report, she criticised the Netherlands for its opposition of Islam and the so-called “Dutch paradox.”
In a preliminary report, presented in The Hague on Monday, Achiume condemned the ban for targeting Muslim women. She explains that even if the targeting was not the intent, it has certainly been the effect, as “the political debate surrounding the adoption of this law makes it plain its intended targeting of Muslim women.”
Achiume, who described the UK as hostile for racial minorities in 2018, has asserted that Islam has been “repeatedly represented, including in the national parliament, as inherently opposed to Dutch national identity.” She went on to say that the common view in the Netherlands is that to be “truly Dutch is to be white and of Western origin.”
She also described what she calls “the Dutch paradox”, as the Netherlands' own perception of itself as tolerant, restricting it from making further changes. She said that “the paradox in the Netherlands is that its insistence that equality and tolerance already exist actually operates as a barrier to achieving equality and tolerance.”
The UN’s efforts to tackle racism
Achiume visited the Netherlands to report on how the country tackles racism and discrimination. All nations who have signed the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination are inspected every five years. Achiume’s report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in July.
While Achiume criticised the Netherlands' efforts in tackling racism, she did praise the Dutch government for promoting gender and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, she did praise the efforts to remove the dehumanising and stereotypical aspects of Zwarte Piet. Coen Gelinck, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Affairs, has said the government is determined to build an inclusive society but admits “there is still work to be done.”