Dutch MPs approve partial ban on wearing of full-face veil in public

Women wearing niqab visit the Dutch Senate on Nov. 23, 2016 in the Hague, the Netherlands. Dutch MPs on Tuesday voted by a large majority to approve a ban on wearing full-face veils in some public places such as schools and hospitals. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2016
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Dutch MPs approve partial ban on wearing of full-face veil in public

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: Dutch MPs on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to ban the Islamic full-face burqa from some public places such as schools and hospitals, the latest such move in a European country.
“The law is adopted,” said the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Khadija Arib, referring to legislation which will also ban niqabs or burqas, and face coverings just with eye-slits, from public transport.
The motion “to ban all clothing which completely covers the face” from government buildings was approved by 132 members in the 150-seat house, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling Liberal-Labour coalition.
The legislation must now go before the Senate for approval before becoming law. It follows similar bans imposed in France and Belgium, and comes amid rising tensions in Europe with Islamic communities.
The Dutch cabinet had approved the plan in mid-2015, but decided not to go as far as banning wearing burqas on the streets.
It backed the legislation due to the “necessity to be able to interact face-to-face, for instance in places where public services are performed and safety must be guaranteed,” the government said.
“The government sees no need to impose the ban on all public spaces,” it added.
Those flouting the ban would face a fine of up to 410 euros (around $430).
Safety equipment such as helmets or full-face protection while working, playing sport or “during a festive or cultural event” is not however included in the ban.
Supporting the ban was the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) of firebrand politician Geert Wilders, who is leading opinion polls ahead of March elections.
His election campaign appears to have been given a boost thanks to the publicity from his trial on charges of hate speech in a Dutch court over comments he made about Moroccans living in the country.
“How do we even know there’s a woman under this Islamic textile?” said PVV lawmaker Machiel de Graaf.
“It might as well be a well-trained jihadist who completed his training in Raqqa of course,” he said in a parliamentary debate last week.
Public newscaster NOS said only about 150 women in The Netherlands wear the burqa, most of them only occasionally.
And MP Tunahan Kuzu, who vehemently fought against the draft legislation, said freedom of expression allowed people “to be who they are and dress how they want.”
“It is reprehensible to exclude these women and isolate them because of a subject anxiety among certain citizens,” he said.
Several women attended last week’s parliamentary debate dressed in burqas. One of them, Karima Rahmani, argued that arrangements to enable women wearing full-face Islamic dress to identify themselves were already in place.
“When we go to the town hall we have to identify ourselves, as well as at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport where we have to remove it,” she told NOS.
“The obligation to identify oneself is already provided for in the law.”
The Dutch government’s advisory State Council body had said it believed issues around the Islamic veil could be solved “without invoking legislation.”
“From time-to-time there’s discussion about it... but it’s not really a big social problem,” it said in a letter published in mid-2015.
France introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2011, or risk a 150 euro fine, resulting in some 1,500 arrests in the past five years.
The European Court of Human Rights in 2014 backed the French ban, rejecting arguments that outlawing full-face veils breaches religious freedom.
Belgium and some parts of Switzerland have followed France’s lead and similar bans are being considered in other European countries.
This summer some French towns also controversially banned burkinis, the full-body Islamic swimsuit.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.