Friday, November 17, 2006

All this for a few dozen?

The Dutch cabinet has backed a proposal to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places. Out of the approximately 5% inhabitants of the Netherlands it seems only a few dozen actually wear the burqa!

The issues of freedom of religious expression and integration are complicated subjects and sometimes I wonder if the huge debate and threatened bans have just encouraged more people to wear religious dress. Bans are a very confrontational approach, taking a "with us or against us?", "within the law or outside it?" attitude. They will do nothing to encourage integration. Society is an organic concept. It can't be simply surgically changed by taking on artificial constructs and expecting things to naturally adapt.

And whilst the proposed law would currently impact on only a handful, just what effect is it going to have? It may help the Dutch government win the forthcoming elections, but it's more likely to encourage the wearing of wear the burqa as a defiance of the law than encourage greater understanding and tolerance.

There used to be a stereotype of the Dutch as the most tolerant people in Europe. I wonder what happened to it?


Paul Burgin said...

They got too "liberal"? To me these things can swing like a pendulum if you are none too careful. It's like the Harry Enfield joke about the two dutch policemen who arrest an elderly couple for complaining about the men burgling their house, because it infringes on the burglars human rights!

Tom said...


Tim, your one-nation credentials are impeccable.


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