[JURIST] The Netherlands cabinet is set to decide later this month whether to go forward with a ban against Muslim women wearing the niqab [Wikipedia backgrounder], the Muslim religious veil similar to a burqa [Wikipedia backgrounder] that leaves only a woman's eyes visible. The specific idea was first floated [JURIST report] in October. Last year the Dutch Parliament [official website] voted in favor of prohibiting all face coverings in public for security reasons, and the cabinet is waiting to hear whether the proposed ban would violate European human rights laws before deciding to authorize the bill. A female Dutch-Muslim lawyer said she believes a ban will prompt more Muslim women to wear the niqab as a form of protest and expressed concern that a ban will eventually lead to a further ban on the hijab, the Muslim headscarf [JURIST news archive].
If the bill is approved, the Netherlands would become the first European country to completely ban the niqab nationwide, following partial bans in France, which outlawed clear religious symbols [JURIST report] including Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps, and Christian crucifixes from schools in 2004, and a Belgian town which banned burkas as an extension of laws that mandate easy public identification. Last November, the European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Turkey's ban on the wearing of headscarves at universities was allowable to prevent extremist political movements. The results of the human rights study for the Dutch bill is expected to be available later this month. Reuters has more.