An Oxford-based Muslim cleric has called for Britain to ban the burqa, arguing that the wearing of a face veil is not Islamic but the product of a misogynistic culture.
In a statement made to a conference on Islam held over the weekend, Dr. Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford called on the British government to follow other European countries such as France and Belgium in outlawing face veils, arguing that not only are they hostile to Western ideals of gender equality, but they are also not Islamic.
“Since the burqa and niqab are ancient habits and not mentioned in the Koran, it is, therefore, pre-Islamic, not Koranic and ipso facto un-Muslim.”
He points to similar bans made within the Islamic world itself, including in Mecca, one of the holiest sites within the Islamic religion, where some scholars say women should be unveiled.
“If Muslim women are banned from covering their faces in Mecca, and cannot perform their daily prayers by hiding their identity, then why is it a requirement to do so on the streets of Britain?” he asked.
“The UK must join other leading European Union nations like France, Belgium, and now Bulgaria in outlawing all forms of facial masking in public. By doing so, it will set a firm marker in what are civilised standards for men and women in the 21st century.”
Dr. Hargey, who advocates for a purely Koran-based form of Islam stripped of the Hadiths, which he calls “man-made traditions that uphold patriarchy, intolerance, and belligerence”, is often referred to as a proponent of radical liberal Islam. But, in fact, his suggestion has strong support within Islamic countries.
In 2009 Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, dean of al-Azhar University in Cairo, regarded by many as Egypt’s imam and Sunni Islam’s foremost spiritual authority, promised to institute a ban on the face veil in Sunni schools after visiting a local school and ordering a teenage girl to remove her niqab.
According to local reports, he told the girl: “The niqab is a tradition and has nothing to do with Islam.” When she began to argue he added: “I tell you again that the niqab has nothing to do with Islam and it is only a mere custom. I understand the religion better than you and your parents.”
Dr. Hargey has called upon the British people to lobby parliament for the change, saying: “There is no conceivable religious, cultural, or ideological reason that can justify concealment of female identity in public. So it is important that all right thinking people lobby parliament to ban this outrageous tradition which only reinforces female servility, and [promotes] sexist patriarchy.”
He added: “There is no doubt that tolerance and truth are the hallmarks of any civilised society. For this reason, all British patriots must become stewards and promoters of these sublime values that distinguish modern Britain as a beacon of stability and peace in the world.”