Brussels, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dutch Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk is to investigate the possibility of banning the wearing of the niqab which covers the body of the Muslim woman entirely and only shows her eyes.
She made the announcement during a session of the Dutch parliament, in answer to a question from right-wing independent MP Geert Wilders, but indicated the ban would not take effect immediately. Instead, it would come to effect after a law is passed forbidding women to wear the niqab, during certain times and in specific locations, after consulting the authorities, including the security services.
According to Wilders, those who wear the niqab are difficult to identify and be seen by those around them. He demanded the veil be outlawed in public spaces and government buildings.
An estimated million strong Muslim immigrants live in the Netherlands, the majority from Morocco and Turkey.
In the past, Wilders had made a number of requests in parliament, which caused great concern with the Muslim community in the Netherlands. In the wake of the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist of Moroccan origin, he pleaded for a number of mosques to be shut down and imams extradited.
In neighboring Belgium, a number of local councils have started to fine women who wear the niqab in public. With the federal government not interfering with local decisions, provinces are fee to act as it they fit and respond to local concerns.