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A ban on "face covering clothing" that includes several types of Islamic veils has been approved by the government of The Netherlands.
The Dutch government's Upper House of parliament passed the bill on Tuesday that has been in process and likely to pass since approval from the Lower House back in 2016.
The ban means that face covering clothing will no longer be permitted in all public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, and public transport.
This means that Muslim women who wear a niqab or burqa will be required to remove it upon entering any such place. It also applies to non-religious face coverings such as ski masks and motorcycle helmets.
Whilst on public streets these garments can still be worn, police now have the power to request that they be removed for identification purposes.
The ban does not include the hijab, which does not cover the whole face.
Supporters claim that the new legislation will make public spaces, buildings, and transport safer, but critics say that it is a way to crack down on Islamic veils such as the niqab and burqa.
An advisory body to the Dutch government said back in 2015 that any such law would conflict with the constitutional right to freedom of religion. They added that they saw no grounds for the government to limit that right.
They also pointed out that the ban is unnecessary, as the number of women who wear the burqa or niqab in The Netherlands is around 200 - 400, and therefore unlikely to cause such a significant problem to merit a law.
The Netherlands follows countries such as Denmark, Belgium, France, Latvia, and Bulgaria in banning veils.
Geert Wilders, a far-right politician who is the founder and leader of the Freedom Party, hailed this as a victory, having campaigned for such a ban for more than a decade.
Freedom Party senator Marjolein Faber said that it was "a historical day because this is the first step to de-Islamize the Netherlands."
She added: "This is the first step and the next step is to close all the mosques in the Netherlands."
However, a senator from the country's Green Party, Ruard Ganzevoort, said: "It is completely disproportionate and the only effect will be that many of these women will stay at home even more.
"They will not have an opportunity to go to school. They will not have an opportunity to go to learn to swim, and all those things."
Anyone found to be breaking the ban could be fined €400 (£352).
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