Saturday 18 November 2006

Bringing the Burqa down on the Dutch elections

Electoral opportunism

Only a few days ago, I did wonder if there was anything going on for the Dutch elections on Tuesday.

Then, the Minister of Integration & Immigration, Mrs. Rita Verdonk suggested the idea of banning the burqa was not a discussion point before the elections. Well, that is no more the case, the cabinet having received legal advice that the ban on the burqa would not contravene Dutch law has voted to approve a ban.

This, with just one working day to the elections smacks of opportunistic electioneering by courting controversy. This decision could have been kept on hold till after the elections, but pandering to this cause sends a signal to the electorate about some perceived toughness on un-integrated Muslims and might garner votes from those who may not have seen through this abuse of process.

A seriously flawed leader

The cabinet is a caretaker cabinet which came about because the self-same Mrs. Verdonk, who whilst adhering to the rules about immigration and indigenisation could not interpret those rules with initiative, discretion, compassion and a humane perspective.

This really irked the legislative chamber, that they called her to defend her policies five times, however, the same chamber never had the courage to sanction her, rather, and it was the judiciary that did more to check executive excesses and abuse of office, privilege and procedure.

Her liberal party must have noticed these leadership flaws that they refused to vote her into leadership; rumours now have it that she is vying for the position of deputy Prime Minister – I despair.

How a lame duck cabinet which only had a few days of legitimate existence could pass a motion so radical and controversial, without drawing the ire of the electoral commission and some other judicial body escapes me – it probably shows a weakness the concept of Dutch democracy.

The helmet and the burqa

The interesting thing about this burqa law is that it might affect all kinds of wear that cover or protect the eyes when one is in a public place, on the street or using public facilities. That would include helmets, visors, possibly ski-wear and winter wear, but these have to be included to allow this thinly veiled Islamophobic law to pass.

I expect a few good challenges to this law because it is bad, it is unnecessary, it is blatant, shameless opportunistic electioneering and it does nothing for promoting the perception of Dutch liberality or tolerance.

Then, we learn that there can only be 50 to 100 wearers of the burqa in a population of 16 million in the Netherlands.

It makes you wonder, how a non-issue can gain so much momentum on the perception of a non-existent threat to generate unnecessary clamour and lead to a controversial law that targets a minuscule minority and would affect a reasonable majority who need to care about their welfare and safety.

As an expatriate, Dutch politics never ceases to amaze me.

Cabinet backs plan to ban burka

Dutch Muslims condemn burqa ban

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