A Muslim woman wearing a niqab – a veil that covers the whole face except for the eyes – has been forced to leave a bus in the Netherlands following the introduction of a law that bans face-covering clothing in public buildings and on transport, according to local media reports.
The woman tried to take a bus in the southern town of Stein on Monday, but the driver would not let her board while wearing the veil, Dutch media reported on Tuesday.
The woman refused to remove the veil and the bus driver called the police, who escorted the woman off the bus, according to reports.
It is the first time the controversial law, which went into effect earlier this month, has been used to deny someone entry on public transportation, the reports said.
The law states that security officials are required to tell people with face-covering clothing to show their faces. If they refuse, they can be denied access to public buildings and transport and fined 150 euros ($165).
However, both proponents as well as opponents have said enforcing the law would be difficult.
Pedro Peters, chairman of OV-NL, the Netherlands’ public transport body, told De Telegraaf newspaper on Tuesday that the driver who refused to let the woman board did not follow protocol.
The transport body said earlier this month that buses would not stop to make a woman in a burqa get off, citing the potential for delays.
Hospitals have also said they would still treat people regardless of what they were wearing.
Muslim and rights groups have voiced opposition to the law – formally called the “partial ban on face-covering clothing”.
The Nida party, an Islamic political party in Rotterdam, has said it will pay the fine for anybody caught breaking the ban and has opened an account where people can deposit money.
The law was introduced in 2005 by far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders.
“I believe we should now try to take it to the next step,” Wilders told The Associated Press news agency in a telephone interview earlier this month.
“The next step to make it sure that the headscarf could be banned in the Netherlands as well.”
The Dutch government has insisted that its partial ban does not target any religion and that people are free to dress how they want.
The Dutch law does not ban the wearing of a burqa on the street, unlike France’s ban which took effect in 2010. Belgium, Denmark and Austria have similar laws.