Wilders presents anti-burqa bill

12th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 July 2007, THE HAGUE (AP) - A right-wing Dutch lawmaker wants women jailed for wearing the head-to-toe Islamic robe known as a burqa, calling it a "symbol of oppression."

12 July 2007

THE HAGUE (AP) - A right-wing Dutch lawmaker wants women jailed for wearing the head-to-toe Islamic robe known as a burqa, calling it a "symbol of oppression."

Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party has nine lawmakers in the 150-seat lower house of Dutch parliament, filed a proposed law change Thursday that would make wearing a burqa in public a crime punishable by up to 12 days jail.

"The burqa and niqab are a symbol of oppression of women," Wilders told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He said burqas and the niqab - a full-faced veil with only a slit for the eyes - hindered integration of Muslim women into Dutch society and also were a security risk.

"If you want to wear a burqa, you should do it somewhere other than the Netherlands," Wilders added.

A prominent spokesman for the Dutch Islamic community, Ayhan Tonca, called Wilders' proposal "totally out of proportion" and accused Wilders of seeking to broaden a rift between Muslims and the rest of Dutch society.

Last November, the Dutch government said it was drawing up legislation to ban burqas, but that administration was defeated in elections the same month and the new centrist coalition of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has no plans to implement a burqa ban, meaning Wilders' proposal has little chance of becoming law.

However, because Wilders has submitted the proposal, it will have to be debated in Parliament and could help solidify his support among right-wing voters. He said he expected that to happen by the end of the year.

Only a handful of women wear the burqa in the Netherlands, but the debate over whether to outlaw it underscores a drift away from traditional Dutch tolerance and unease with the growing influence of Islam in the country.

About 6 percent of the Dutch population of 16 million is Muslim and Wilders accuses many Muslims of failing to integrate.

He said that a burqa ban would help women who wear the robe to find work and make Dutch friends. "Nobody is going to employ somebody wearing a burqa," he added.

Wilders is well-known for his anti-Islam outbursts and is constantly under protection from Dutch security.

During last year's election campaign, he warned that the Netherlands was threatened by a "tsunami" of radical Islam and said Muslims should tear up half of the Quran if they wish to belong to Dutch society.

Security and intelligence services have warned Wilders that his comments risk fanning anti-Dutch sentiment in Islamic countries, but he refuses to rein in his rhetoric.

"This is not a law for Saudi Arabia, this is a law for the Netherlands," he said. "I couldn't care less what people in the Middle East think about it."

Muslim spokesman Tonca accused Wilders of attacking his faith. "He is just involved in anti-Islamic politics," he said.

"This is totally out of proportion," Tonca added. "He is taking on a problem that is not a problem, There are only a few people in the Netherlands who wear the burqa."

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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