The lower house of the Dutch parliament has approved a limited ban on “face-covering clothing”, including the burqa and niqab.
The legislation, approved by a large majority on Tuesday by the 150-seat House of Representatives, must be approved by the upper house of parliament before it can be enacted.
In an Associated Press text, anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders called the limited ban “a step in the right direction” and said he would push for the burqa to be banned altogether if his right-wing Freedom party wins the general elections in March.
Studies suggest that only a few hundred women in the Netherlands wear the niqab or full burqa, but successive governments have tried to ban them, as have France and Belgium.
The Dutch proposal, described by the government as a “neutral religion”, does not go as far as the comprehensive bans introduced in these countries. It applies in public transport and in educational establishments, health establishments such as hospitals and government buildings.
In a debate last week that paved the way for the vote, Home Secretary Ronald Plasterk acknowledged that the fury over the burqa played a major role in approving the ban.
But Labor Party Plasterk said people should be allowed to appear in public with their faces covered if they wanted to, but in government buildings, schools and hospitals it was essential to be able to look yourself in the face.
The maximum fine for violating the ban, which also covers ski goggles and full face helmets, is just over € 400 (£ 340).