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Wilders wants headscarf tax
Published on:Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - 20:02
Geert Wilders has done it again. The leader of the far-right Freedom Party managed to make the Dutch headlines during the annual general political debate.
Wilders's newest proposal is to tax the Muslim headscarf. Any Muslim woman who wants to wear a headscarf - which he described as a 'head-rag' - would have to apply for a licence, and pay one thousand euros for the privilege. Wilders says the money raised would go toward women's emancipation programmes.
Alexander Pechtold from the liberal D66 Party gives his reaction:
The rest of the Dutch parliament reacted to the proposal with disbelief. One after another, they asked Mr Wilders if this was a serious proposal. For instance, would he include other types of head covering in the tax? And how about orthodox Christian women who wear a headscarf quite similar to the Muslim version?
In reaction, Mr Wilders said he would actually prefer to ban the headscarf altogether, but that appeared to be legally impossible. He would not tax the Christian form of the headscarf, but he did not say how policy would make that distinction.
Mr Wilders has acquired a reputation for making shocking statements during general debates. Two years ago, he called for the banning the Muslim holy book, the Quran. Last year, he warned that Muslims were colonising the Netherlands. Last spring, he and his entire fraction walked out at the beginning of a debate.
The government still has to defend its new budget as part of the general debates. But in an unusual move, Mr Wilders has already announced that he plans to submit another motion of no-confidence in the entire cabinet. That will be the Freedom Party's eighth motion of no-confidence.
Queen under fire
The Queen also took it on the chin during the general political debate in the Dutch parliament. One day after opening the parliamentary year with her Speech from the Throne, she was the subject of a sharp exchange on the floor of the lower house of parliament.
Geert Wilders was again the one sparkng parliamentary fireworks. He pointed out that while most of the country will see their disposable income shrink next year, the Queen and other members of the royal family, who receive a government allowance, will see an increase in their monthly cheques.
For the first time this year, government expenditure for the Royal Family have been tabulated in a separate section of the national budget. This was done in the interest of transparency. And indeed, without much effort, one quickly sees that the royals will cost the state 40.5 million euros next year, 7 million of which goes toward allowances.
Mr Wilders says the Queen should set an example.
"We are not talking about just anyone. We are talking about our dearly beloved royal highness, plus other members of the royal family. If the entire country has to pay, if the finance minister says everyone has to tighten their belts, shouldn't the members of the royal family, not the most disadvantaged people in the world, also make do with 20 percent less of their government allowance."
The leader of the Christian Democrat parliamentary faction, Pieter van Geel, defended his colleagues in the cabinet.
"I feel no need to react to these kind of populist remarks, and I have nothing to add. Scoring a populist point with this is as easy as attracting bees to honey. We don't do that."
Mr van Geel might not do that. But the Freedom Party leader was joined by four other opposition parties in his call for to cut the royal family's income. A day after the Queen herself urged all Dutch people to assume their responsibility during the hard times ahead, it's a hard call to refute.