A clash of political cultures is playing out in The Hague. An institution dating back to the renaissance is increasingly at odds with the current government and its partner, the 21st century anti-Islamic movement established by Geert Wilders.
The Council of State was established in 1531 to review proposed laws with an eye to their legal implications and whether they are in line with the Dutch constitution. But its advice is not binding and the current Dutch minority cabinet has set aside the council’s recommendations more often than any previous cabinet. Likewise, the number of negative recommendations made to the government by its own advisors has risen by an eye-catching 60 percent, according to research carried out by Dutch commercial broadcaster RTL Nieuws.
The laws the council has recommended changing are mainly those strongly backed by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, which supports the minority cabinet in parliament. Reducing the visibility of Muslims in Dutch society is an important item on the Freedom Party’s agenda. Hence, the government has proposed banning the wearing of clothing which covers the face, such as the burqa or the niqab worn by a small number of Islamic women in the Netherlands. The Council of State says the ban is unconstitutional because it infringes the right to religious freedom.