Amsterdam mayor: cut burka-wearers benefits

28th September 2009, Comments 10 comments

Women who refuse to give up wearing the burka for jobs should have unemployment benefits cut, says Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen.

Amsterdam – Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen suggests women who refuse jobs rather than give up wearing the Islamic burka should not receive unemployment benefit in an interview with daily newspaper Trouw.

In the interview, Cohen said women who fail to find a job because they don a burka should not expect to receive unemployment benefits for those genuinely trying to find employment.

"Personally, I think it's terrible to see a woman in a burka. But whether or not I like something isn't a reason to forbid it," Cohen tells the paper.

The Amsterdam mayor opposes a general ban on the burka as he believes it is an expression of religious belief. However, he believes the burka is an obstacle in situations where contact with other people is necessary, such as at school or in the workplace. There, women should choose a less restrictive head covering.
I agree that if you can't get work because you insist on wearing the burka, you shouldn't apply for [unemployment] benefit."

In 2006, Diemen local council attempted to introduce such a ban on benefits for people unemployed because of wearing the burka. However, an Amsterdam court reversed the ban, ruling it illegal.

The lower house of parliament then introduced a motion to allow councils to reduce benefits for burka-wearers. The Freedom Party was the only party to support a no benefits vote for burka-wearers.

Radio Netherlands / Expatica

10 Comments To This Article

  • A Canadian posted:

    on 2nd October 2009, 06:24:54 - Reply

    So, if not seeing someone's face is considered so distasteful in NL, is a woman wearing a hijab (head-scarf) whose face is visible likely to find it easier to get a job? Really??
    And on a play-ground... what about this? What's next... banning floppy hats and large sunglasses on playgrounds?
    What's next... clown makeup? Oh, what about the Zwaarte Pieters?... OMG, they could all be terrorists!!!!
    Ignore it all you want, but this is racism... nothing more, nothing less!
  • A Canadian posted:

    on 2nd October 2009, 05:57:30 - Reply

    okay Robbie, but why should wearing a burqa make one unemployable?... (unless for security or safety reasons) Because people don't like it?
    This is not a good enough reason for not hiring someone. Does an employer have the right in the NL to decide if women wear hosiery or not?
    Of course, there are some jobs where specific attire is required, but what about those jobs that have no such requirements? Explain to me why a woman wearing a burqa should not be hired to work in a shop, or as a hotel maid, or an accountant, web-designer, childminder, teacher, etc.? Most jobs do not dictate what a person wears. Why is a Muslim women who chooses to wear a burqa an different? (you assume that all women have no choice)
  • HistoryTechDoc posted:

    on 30th September 2009, 20:13:25 - Reply

    Robbie: "And – HistoryTechDoc – you need to check that touch of paranoia you’re showing here; all that Semitic ethno-babble makes no sense at all and tends to undermine your entire argument. That is, if you actually had a point to make, but I'm no longer sure what that is. I’m done here."
    Sorry to hear that you have nothing better to add then personal attacks on my points of discussion, when they are not in line with your views. Such do not conform to proper and civilized debating ethics.
  • Robbie posted:

    on 30th September 2009, 19:39:27 - Reply

    This is not about banning religious groups or what they do to themselves to give expression to it. This is about restricting your employability while being on government financial support – support that is being extended to you on the assumption that you make every reasonable effort to find employment. And if everyone can play by these rules, such a system is fair and equitable, and I would have no issue contributing to such a system. Now, there are situations where people are restricted to certain kinds of employment because they have a disability or sorts, or some other kind of condition that is beyond their control – IAW, there is nothing they can do about it. However, in the case of following some bizarre religious or cultural custom that is limiting your employability – such as having to hide your face in public – well, that is still a matter of choice in the Netherlands (as it would be in any democracy). But then you would have to face the consequences of such an act, such as the fact that very few people would want to hire you. And that is not an act of discrimination – the usual red herring that gets thrown around here - but the fact that what you are doing is incompatible with the prevailing culture. We –westerners – like to look each other in the face, and this is an essential component of our social interaction. Putting value in that is not discriminatory, but an essential part of what it means to live in a democratic society. That means we all have rights, not just those who come here to ride roughshod over the most common rules of established social interaction.

    And – HistoryTechDoc – you need to check that touch of paranoia you’re showing here; all that Semitic ethno-babble makes no sense at all and tends to undermine your entire argument. That is, if you actually had a point to make, but I'm no longer sure what that is. I’m done here.
  • HistoryTechDoc posted:

    on 30th September 2009, 13:51:10 - Reply

    One might further argue that behind the \\\\\\\'veil\\\\\\\' of Mayor Cohen\\\\\\\'s and Geert Wilders\\\\\\\' anti-burka (anti-Muslim et al.) proposals may lie the real objective to promote classification of our muslim population as official second class citizens; those not enjoying the same full rights of the predominate Dutch majority.

    Ironically, among the very laws that may be brought into play to confound the legitmacy of such proposals, if set to law, could be those established to guard against anti-Semitism itself. In conflict with common street usage of this term is the more precise scientific definition of \\\\\\\'Semites\\\\\\\' used by physical anthropologista (and the Old Testament for that matter) that includes all Semite qua Arab peoples as once ethnic group, regardless of religious persuasion, whether it be Arab, Christian, or Muslim. Not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslims. Anyone familiar with the various Lebanese ethnic groups has no problem understanding the basic relationship of all three of these religious representations in their basically Semetic-Arabic society.

    Therefore, it may not be too farfetched to contemplate any future anti-Muslim laws, at least for Semetic-Arabic Muslims, contested on the basis of present anti-Semetic laws now on the books. Such a case could conceivably end up with a court ruling finding that anti-Semetic laws must be applied equally to all those of Semetic origin (including Semetic-Arab Christians and Muslims) regardless of religious affliliation. Think about what the ramifications of such a ruling would bring about then! If such a legal ruling were to take place then those poking insult at either a skull cap or burka could be found in violation of anti-Semetic laws.

    Better that we give more consideration to the long term effects of such new proposals before legislating them into law without any real thought as to where they may lead in the future.
  • An Australian posted:

    on 30th September 2009, 10:44:31 - Reply

    This ban is just to press a religious group on the basis of their believes which is totally un democratic. I am totally agree with HistoryTechDoc.
  • HistoryTechDoc posted:

    on 30th September 2009, 06:21:04 - Reply

    Robbie: "Of course, to cut these folk’s off the government’s payroll will result in cries of discrimination....". Such a law will bring on more than cries, it will bring on lawsuits that will force the courts to rule on an issue of religious decrimination and put a legal test to the long history of religious tolerance. I think it best to keep this issue out of the courts.

    Burkas cannot be worn in a bank for obvious security reasons, but that does not mean that these women are stopped from having bank accounts.

    Such a burka law is an ad hoc, politically motivated measure without regard to its long term consequences. One only needs to insist that a person's, male or female, face can be seen while at work to be employed, the same as with the case that many of us were taught with by shrouded nuns in Catholic schools. Their habits did not stop children from learning to read and write, etc.

    In the long run giving these women a chance to hold a job and earn an income will help make them financially independent so that they can choose for themselves the way they want to dress and behave in open society. Cut them some slack and give them time to adapt to a new social environment outside their homes. Unless these women can come in greater contact with the rest of society they will remain prisoners of their past culture. Such a law will only produce further cultural conflict and delay further integration.
    And by the way, if you have ever been walking with your wife or girlfriend near a construction site and had to be subjected to the catcalls from construction workers hollering from above, then one can see that sometimes our women wish that they could have more covered protection to spare them from such redicule and pestering.
  • A Canadian posted:

    on 30th September 2009, 06:18:27 - Reply

    So, what's the problem with wearing a burka, unless it's a safety or security issue? Shouldn't a person living in a democracy have the right to wear what they choose? There is no justification for racism or cultural intolerance!
  • Robbie posted:

    on 29th September 2009, 22:43:21 - Reply

    Actually, requiring all kids attending public schools to wear school uniforms wouldn't be a bad suggestion, as it would remove the need for kids to compete on the fashion front and save parents a lot of money in the process. My daughter wore a school uniform for may years – and my wife and I thought that was just great. Never a hassle in the morning!

    But to get back to this news item - and ignoring the silly sarcasm expressed by HistoryTechDoc above (he is clearly not getting the point) - it really isn't fair to expect taxpayers to support individuals financially who, because of their beliefs or lifestyles, render themselves essentially unemployable. If - in the case of the burka - an individual has been condemned by their culture or religion to walk around with a bag or tent over their head - then the consequences of that action (such as limited employability) should be born not by the Dutch taxpayer – but by the individuals who have chosen to live that way. Reason really does need to prevail here.

    Of course, to cut these folk’s off the government’s payroll will result in cries of discrimination by those who seem to attribute some innate value to whatever belief someone might come up with that makes them dress up that way. To those I would say: get your wallet out and put your money where your mouth is, and you can support them. Just don’t expect me to support such idiotic ways of dressing up in public so that no one wants to take you on as an employee. This is Holland, not down town Kandahar.
  • HistoryTechDoc posted:

    on 28th September 2009, 17:38:47 - Reply

    \"Personally, I think it\'s terrible to see a woman in a burka.\" Doesn\'t Mayor Cohen really mean a \'politically incorrect\' fashion statement in his opionion? As far as disallowing unemployment benefits because of violating a dress code, seems a punishment out of proportion to the \'crime\'. (One might think it to be a minor miracle for someone to get a high profile job when applying wearing a burka in the first place).

    \"With Mayor Cohen\'s extensive legal background he must know that he\'s opening up a can of legal worms with his latest proposal trying to molefy exactly whom, besides himself? The PVV and Geert Wilders adherents, I quess. How could such a law allow Catholic nuns in traditional habits during Mass or perform social work (their place of work).

    If Mayor Cohen really wants to mandate fashion, then he should start by requiring all children to attend public schools and wear school uniforms. In this way any individualistic dress could be banned. However, he may have to leave his golden chain at home so as not to annoy those who can only afford costume jewelry.