A British imam has said that the increasing prevalence of the burka among young Muslim women is “one of the most sinister developments of our time” and called for the garment to be banned. Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford made the call in an article for the Daily Mail, in which he said that there is nothing in Islamic teaching advocating the wearing of the burka and that the “moderate majority” of Muslims should join him in calling for the ban.
Dr Hargey wrote that, after the failure of previous efforts, he has now started a campaign within the Muslim community to have the garment banned:
“There have, of course, been previous petitions and calls to outlaw face masks in public, but all came from the political Right and gained little traction.
“This campaign is different. It is the first one led by Muslims, speaking for the moderate majority whose voice has been unheeded up to now. We invite both Muslims and our other fellow citizens to work together to rid Britain of this alien cultural monstrosity.”
He said that Muslims needed to tell the political class to not be afraid of the reaction from fundamentalists:
“Despite growing concern from the British public, our pusillanimous politicians have refused to address the burgeoning prevalence of the burka in our midst, as they fear accusations of Islamophobia from the militant fundamentalists and their PC allies.
“Well, it is time to put the needs of British society before the manufactured grievances of the hardliners, whose aim is to replace our liberal democracy with a totalitarian theocracy, the burka serving as a weapon in this far-reaching cultural war.
“In rejecting the ideology of the zealots, mainstream Muslims should be at the forefront of the campaign for a ban, not least because the burka so badly undermines the credibility and reputation of our faith.”
He explained that the recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights to rule that France’s burka ban did not violate fundamental human rights had inspired the campaign:
“A key part of the impetus for this move came from the decision of the European Court of Human Rights this month to uphold the ban instituted by the French Government in 2010 on all face coverings in public. Supported by lawyers from Birmingham, a 24-year-old French woman of Pakistani origin took her well-funded case to the ECHR, claiming that the ban was a violation of her — and note the sequence — religious, cultural and personal rights.
“On every level, this questionable appeal relied on distortions and untruths. Thankfully her case was thrown out, but her arguments illustrate the chronic weakness of any suggestion that we must allow the burka to be worn in public.
“First, there is no religious requirement on Muslims to don the burka; second, the burka is not a feature of Pakistani culture, where 90 per cent of women do not wear it; third, there is no unqualified human right to wear whatever we want in public. In every developed society, personal freedoms have to take account of wider social mores.”
He concludes by saying that pressure on modern Muslim women to wear face veils comes only from hardliners who have misinterpreted Islam, and who are incompatible with British culture.
“All of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have a duty to challenge the religious hardliners who have cynically exploited British traditions of tolerance and individual liberty to pursue their own twisted sectarian agenda imported wholesale from the Arab Middle East.
“A start could be made by forcing our politicians to debate the issue by gathering sufficient signatures for our historic anti-burka petition.
“We cannot continue to accept the creeping Arabisation of Islam in the UK and consequent destruction of our cherished British freedoms. A stand must be made now.”