In a move that will be welcomed by Muslim and progressive communities across the country, the UK Immigration Minister Damain Green in response to the private members bill put forward by the Tory MP Philip Hollobone suggesting that the burka should be banned has stated that such a law would be at odds with the UK’s ‘tolerant and mutually respectful society’.
Minister Green further added:
“Telling people what they can and can’t wear, if they’re just walking down the street, is a rather un-British thing to do.”
Catherine Heseltine from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee welcomed the comments, and suggested that MPs should not waste their time discussing it.
“Britain is a free country. We value our freedoms and we don’t want MPs or the government telling British citizens what they can or can’t wear.”
“How does it hurt anybody else if a woman chooses to wear a small piece of cloth across her face? And is it a priority when there’s a £160bn national debt to be tackled?”
Indicating firm government support against a ban, the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, agreed saying:
“I take a strong view on this, actually, that I don’t, living in this country, as a woman, want to be told what I can and can’t wear.”
“That’s something which both myself and Minister Sayeeda Warsi have argued very strongly, that one of the things we pride ourselves on in this country is being free – and being free to choose what you wear is a part of that.
“So actually banning the burka is absolutely contrary, I think, to what this country is all about.”
Mr Green said there were occasions when it was important to be able to see someone’s face, but insisted that;
“It’s very unlikely and it would be undesirable for the British Parliament to try and pass a law dictating what people wore.”
The minister said that, unlike France, the UK was not “aggressively secular”.
In a climate where there have been some notable setback’s to the cause for race equality today’s announcements will be welcomed by many who were becoming increasing anxious about a growing climate of intolerance in relation to the Muslim community.