When news happens, text CIT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
East Lancashire political leaders welcome national 'veil' debate
RELIGIOUS leaders have reacted with anger over renewed calls to ban Muslim women from covering their faces in public.
Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said he felt ‘uneasy’ about restricting freedoms, but called for a national debate on the role the state can play in stopping women and girls from being forced to wear veils.
His comments came as a London court ordered a Muslim woman to remove her veil in the dock. Muslim convert Rebekah Dawson, 22, was told by Judge Peter Murphy yesterday to remove her veil while facing trial for allegedly intimidating a witness.
But Abdul Hamid Qureshi, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said the vast majority of women who wear a veil chose to do so, and those seeking a niqab ban were doing so because of their fears and prejudices. He said he believed justice could be effectively administered while allowing women to wear a niqab.
He said: “What the people who are trying to ban the veil fail to understand is that many of those women feel very strongly that they want to wear the veil. We have to give that right to them. It’s their choice. This is a free country and people have different choices and variants in their lives.
“I don’t like people wearing scant clothing or very tight clothing, but people have the right to wear that.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he would not favour an outright ban, but would be happy to take part in a national debate.
He said: “I haven’t come across any problems at all in Burnley. I have a view that if you want to wear a veil then you should be able to.
“Obviously, there are some situations when it isn’t possible to wear a veil, where there are issues of security or justice, and I think everybody understands that.”
Blackburn MP Jack Straw has previously been vocal on the subject, sparking a debate in 2006 when he said the veil was a ‘visible statement of separation and of difference’, and asked women visiting his advice surgery to consider removing it.
Yesterday, he backed Judge Murphy’s decision and said: “How could I be against a national debate? I got this national debate going.
“I said some years ago that the veil was bound to make relations between the two communities difficult, and I haven’t changed my view.
“However, I don’t believe it should be banned by law. Anyone who has been in a court will know that being able to see the demeanour of a witness or defendant can be as important as the words they use.”
Recently Birmingham Metropolitan College was forced to drop a ban on veils, after thousands signed a petition.
In 2010, Burnley College faced criticisms for ordering anyone coming on to the site to remove items of clothing that covered their face.