Prime Minister Rutte backs queen's remarks

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

In a weekly meeting with the press, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has backed remarks made yesterday by Queen Beatrix that it is “nonsense” to say the Islamic headscarf is a symbol of women’s oppression.

The queen’s words were made in response to criticism by the Freedom Party (PVV) becasue she entered the Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi wearing a headscarf over her hat. One of the reasons behind their criticism was because PVV MPs claimed in doing so she “legitimised the oppression of women”.

Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told journalists on Thursday that it was customary for the queen to comply with local traditions when on state visits.

Queen Beatrix called the Freedom Party claim “utter nonsense”. But Labour Party MP Jeroen Recourt called the queen’s remarks a slip of the tongue, because in saying this, the queen had made a political statement. He blamed the prime minister for not protecting the queen from such criticism.

Mr Rutte dismissed the accusation: “The suggestion that the cabinet has not sufficiently supported the head of state is incorrect.”

On Thursday the last day of her trip to the Middle East, Queen Beatrix wore another headscarf over her hat during a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Oman. Her comments were made later in the day at a press conference.

In response to the PVV's parliamentary questions, the prime minister had already defended the queen saying she wore the headscarf in a mosque or other house of God as a mark of respect.

Today, he added the queen’s comments were “completely right”. He said Mr Wilders’ comments on headscarves being a symbol of oppression were much too general, “There are lots of women who wear headscarves, they are not all oppressed.”

He put the queen’s comments down to her own observations and therefore per definition correct.


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide