Scout Leader Fired for Criticising Promotion of Islamic Face Veil

burqa
MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

A senior scout leader who was expelled from his job after criticising other leaders wearing the full face Islamic veil in front of children has launched a lawsuit against the Scout Association.

Brian Walker compared the Muslim garment to the costume of Star Wars character Darth Vader, and suggested it could hider communication and even frighten young children, the Bristol Post reports.

The assistant Explorer Scout leader from Bristol, who works as a canoeing instructor, also explained that it could be dangerous during boating activities and claimed the scouts were moving away from the Christian roots.

The scouting movement was launched in 1908 by South Africa war hero Sir Robert Baden-Powell, based on explicitly Christian principles.

The Islamic burqa and niqab, which conceal the entire face, often in black, are associated with the fundamentalist Salafist and Wahabist strains of Islam, which are also followed by terrorist groups like Islamic State.

Mr. Walker made his critical comments in a letter to the Scout Association’s official magazine, after the publication promoted and defended scouting leaders wearing the full-face coverings in front of children.

A Muslim scouting leader named as Zainab had told the Spring 2017 edition of the magazine: “A couple of times we’ve been out on hikes in our hijabs and neckers, and people have come up to us and given us a lot of positive comments.

“It is not a barrier; it doesn’t stop me from doing anything. I’m bossy. Nobody can say I’m repressed.”

However, Mr. Walker objected, writing to the magazine to share his views and explain that the leader would “most likely drown wearing that Darth Vader tent”.

He also said her “outward appearance is enough to frighten children and animals” in the unpublished letter.

The editor of the magazine replied to say he disagreed and, just days later, the local District Commanded informed Mr. Walker he was no longer a member of the organisation, accusing him of not sharing their “inclusive” values.

Mr. Walker, who is a lifelong scout member and Christian, is now taking legal action against the Scouting Association. Defending his comments, he told the Bristol Post:

“It was just a quip, meant to be tongue in cheek. Communication is paramount when you are a scout leader, but if they can’t see your face, how do they know who you are?

“People are so fearful of speaking out. I’ve got two special needs kids with Asperger Syndrome and cerebral palsy, so I know all about exclusion.”

The former scout, who served for 12 years in the military, also said the association should be focusing on scouting rather than promoting LGBT issues and claimed the organisation is “embracing everything except Christianity”.

A spokesman for the Scout Association said: “We are aware of the issues raised with us by Mr. Walker. However due to legal reasons we are unable to comment specifically on this case.

“Inclusivity is at the heart of modern scouting and is a value we hold dear. We welcome young people and volunteers from all communities across the UK and we are proud of our inclusive approach to youth work.”

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