British Muslims have launched an official petition to ask parliament to debate banning the burka. If 100,000 people sign, the House of Commons will be obliged to hold a debate on whether Britain should introduce a French-style ban on full-face coverings.
The campaign has been set up by imam Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, who in a recent article for the Daily Mail, called the full-face veil an “ugly tribal contraption” and “alien cultural monstrosity”.
According to the Times, the petition states: “Many Muslims have been misled by bogus propaganda from fundamentalists that the burqa/niqab is integral to Islam. This is untrue. It is a tribal cloth that is pre-Islamic, non-Qur’anic and un-Muslim. Female public anonymity is an imported Saudi-Afghan fad.
“The burqa/niqab must be resisted for compelling theological, social, health, security, gender equity and patriarchal reasons so that Britain’s traditional character is preserved. We must oppose this salvo from theological extremists seeking to impose their warped version of Islam.”
There is, however, an opposing petition, which currently has more signatures, that says women should be able to wear full-face veils because “British women should have the right to choose how they dress”.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also opposed to a change, saying: “If Britain’s political establishment do not tackle and defeat Islamic religious fanaticism now, it will become impossible to do so when Muslims become a bigger proportion of British society.”
Dr Hargey remains determined to ban the garments, however, saying: “In the past, only rightwing groups wanted to proscribe the burka and niqab. The difference now is that progressive and integrated Muslims are in the forefront of this extraordinary endeavour.
“If Britain’s political establishment do not tackle and defeat Islamic religious fanaticism now, it will become impossible to do so when Muslims become a bigger proportion of British society.”