An Allen & Overy partner has protested against the Netherlands’ new 'burqa ban' by donning a bright yellow niqab at a Pride march.
Hendrik Jan Biemond, a litigation partner at A&O who is also a local councillor for the PvdA party, dressed as a 'Burqa Queen' at the Canal Pride celebration in Amsterdam on Saturday. He was joined by five other demonstrators to form a provocative rainbow of modesty.
A team of scientists working for years could not design a protest so confusing and/or offensive to so many opposing factions. ROF salutes you, Hendrik.
Biemond and his comrades were protesting the country’s new ban on face covering, which came into force on August 1st. It prohibits clothing which obscures the face from being worn in government buildings, educational and healthcare institutions, and on public transport. Although it encompasses balaclavas, masks and motorcycle helmets, it has been interpreted by critics as an anti-Muslim initiative.
In the photo tweeted by the Amsterdam branch of the PvdA, which is the Netherlands’ Labour Party, Biemond holds a sign stating "Burqa Queens", while his comrades' read, “No human is free until we are all free" and "My burqa is my right and pride".
Biemond has endured strong criticism for supporting the right to wear the controversial garment, which is frequently presented as a symbol of the oppression of Muslim women. While the niqab is worn for many reasons, some Muslims believe it is compulsory for women to wear niqabs in the presence of non-related males. It has been used as a tool of state repression in Afghanistan under the Taliban and in Iran, where a human rights lawyer was sentenced to 148 lashes for defending women who appeared in public without headscarves.
A fellow PvdA politician called Biemond's stand “bizarre”. Another, parliamentarian Keklic Yucel, said their party "is always fighting for women's freedom and equality, and not for women's lack of freedom and inequality" (as long as women don’t want to be free to cover their face).
Biemond is not specifically in favour of the burqa, he said, "But I am more against the burqa ban. I want people to have the freedom to do what they want. Or is that too difficult?"
The Amsterdam branch of the PvdA backed his stance, tweeting, "freedom means that you can be who you are and therefore also wear what you want".
And Allen & Overy voiced its support for the partner and his right to protest. Biemond, said a spokeswomen for the firm, "is a highly regarded lawyer and he is also active as a municipal councillor. He of course has the liberty to express an individual opinion."