Ban the burqa, says Tory MP

A TORY MP has launched a legal bid to ban Muslim women from wearing burkas in public places.

Philip Hollobone has tabled a private members’ bill which would make it illegal for anyone to cover their face in public.

Hollobone has previously likened full face veils to:

Going round with a paper bag over your head.

His Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill is the first of its kind in Britain, and is one of only 20 private members’ bills drawn in a ballot for the chance to make it into the statute books.

According to this report, the bill, which had its first reading yesterday, stands little chance of becoming law due to limited Parliamentary time and a lack of support from the main political parties.

But it is set to reignite the fierce debate about the banning of the Islamic garments at a time when a number of European countries are trying to outlaw them.

Hollobone said it was “not the British way” for Muslim women to cover their faces in public. Insisting that his bill has widespread public support, the Kettering MP added:

People feel that something should be done about burqas, but so many are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled a racist. Part of the British way of life is walking down the street, smiling at people and saying hello, whether you know them or not. You cannot have this everyday human interaction if you cover your face. These people are saying that they don’t want to be part of our way of society.

But Shaista Gohir, of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said:

I agree that wearing a face veil has a negative affect on community cohesion and the majority of Muslims do not believe it is a religious obligation. But a ban would be a completely disproportionate response. There are a million Muslim women in the UK and only a few thousand are estimated to wear a veil. Banning the veil will not help those few women to integrate. But it will play into the hands of extremist parties.

Heather Harvey, Amnesty International UK Stop Violence Against Women campaign manager, said:

For those women who are being coerced into wearing full face veils, a ban would only make matters worse. Either they’re criminalised if they go out in public or, more likely, they are confined to their homes.

And speaking of burqas, we thought the picture below cries out for an amusing caption. It shows an Afghan woman – we presume it actually IS a woman – being snapped at a voter registration centre in Herat last month.

Best entry wins a year’s subscription to the print edition of the Freethinker plus a hard-back copy of The Atheist’s Bible, “an illustrious collection of irreverent thoughts”. There is a runner-up prize of a year’s subscription to the magazine.

Closing date for entries is July 8, 2010.

Here are some of the many entertaining and thought-provoking quotes contained in the book:

• When I think of all the harm [the Bible] has done, I despair of writing anything to equal it – Oscar Wilde

• The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one – George Bernard Shaw

• Science … has been accused of undermining morals – but wrongly. The ethical behaviour of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death – Albert Einstein

• I’m not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to Hell? – Homer Simpson

Hat tip: Pete H