May Rules Out Ban on Islamic Veil

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest in Gaza City on February 26, 2012, two days following violence in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Britain will not ban the Islamic veil in work or public places, the prime minister has said.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May appeared to question a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to give employers across the European Union (EU) the right to ban staff from wearing “political, philosophical or religious” symbols.

When asked by Conservative MP Tim Loughton whether she would “reiterate that reasonable freedom of expression should never be snuffed out by insidious political correctness”, the prime minister responded: “It’s the right of all women to choose how they dress and we don’t intend to legislate on this issue.”

“There will be times where it’s right for a veil to be asked to be removed such as border security or perhaps in courts,” she added.

“Individual institutions can make their own policies but it is not for government to tell women what they can or cannot wear and we want to continue that strong tradition of freedom of expression.”

The case was brought before the ECJ by two Muslim women who had been sacked from their workplaces because they insisted on wearing the hijab.

The court ruled, however, that a ban on religious clothing does not constitute “direct discrimination” if the firm has a blanket ban on “any political, philosophical or religious sign”.

Last year, a Muslim cleric based in Oxford called for Britain to ban Islamic face veils, saying they are not really Islamic but products of a misogynistic culture.

“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.”

Dr. Taj Hargey pointed out that some Islamic scholars even think women should not cover their faces in Mecca.

“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?”