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Ban on 'boas' wearing religious symbols not yet possible

It is becoming increasingly common for large Dutch municipalities, including the Municipality of Amsterdam, to allow special enforcement officers to wear religious symbols such as the kippah and headscarf. Dutch Minister of Justice Dilan Yesilgöz and PVV party leader Geert Wilders are opposed to this and call for a nationwide ban on the wearing of religious symbols. Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, discussed this issue on Dutch news programme ‘Nieuwsuur’.

Municipal authority

In the broadcast, Voermans explains that it is not yet possible to ban such symbols as there is no national legislation specifically for these special officers (in Dutch, Buitengewoon Opsporingsambtenaren or 'boas') that could stop them wearing expressions of their religion. The authority to decide on this lies with municipal councils and so it's up to them whether they allow it, Voermans says. According to Nieuwsuur, four municipalities now allow their boas to wear religious symbols.

Neutrality versus diversity

On Nieuwsuur, the spokesperson for the BOA union said that ‘the boas' appearance must be neutral at all times’. However, the leader of the DENK Amsterdam party does not agree with this and believes that boas should be free to wear religious symbols, saying, ‘Amsterdam should be a reflection of all its communities’.

Change in the law

According to Voermans, a total nationwide ban is only possible if the law is amended accordingly. The Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure already contains dress codes for police officers and specifically requires 'a neutral appearance without any kind of religious symbol', but this restriction does not apply to special enforcement officers.

More information

Watch the item (in Dutch) in the Nieuwsuur broadcast (from 16.15 min.)

Photo: Hannah Skelly through Unsplash

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