The papers today all cover the news that the Tory MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone, has introduced a Private Members Bill – the ‘Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill’ – that seeks to ban the wearing of the burqa/niqab in public.
In an article for Conservative Home, Hollobone says:
‘…the niqab and the burqa are oppressive dress codes that are regressive as regards the advancement of women in our society…I have been concerned for some time about the niqab and the burqa, but it was not until I took my children to the play area in my local park recently and saw a woman wearing a full burqa that it came home to me how inappropriate and, frankly, offensive it is for people to wear that apparel in the 21st century and especially in Britain…As I was sitting on the bench in the playground watching my children play on the slides, I thought to myself, “Here I am, in the middle of Kettering in the middle of England – a country that has been involved for centuries with spreading freedom and democracy throughout the world-and here’s a woman who, through her dress, is effectively saying that she does not want to have any normal human dialogue or interaction with anyone else. By covering her entire face, she is effectively saying that our society is so objectionable, even in the friendly, happy environment of a children’s playground, that we are not even allowed to cast a glance on her.” I find that offensive and I think it is time that the country did something about it.’
Oh, the irony of a Tory MP being proud of the ‘freedoms’ that Britain has spread around the world and then going on to introduce a parliamentary bill to try and ban the burqa.
Hollobone is also on record as describing the wearing of the burqa as “the religious equivalent of going round with a paper bag over your head with two holes for eyes”. Just imagine the response if a sitting MP had made a similar derogatory remark directed at members of another faith community in the UK. It is another measure of just how anti-Muslim much of the atmosphere in Europe has now become that Hollobone’s remarks led to no official rebuke whatsoever from the Tory party.
Just to be clear: I am not at all convinced by the religious arguments that say it is a requirement that Muslim women should wear the niqab or the hijab for that matter. I can’t really imagine a merciful Creator seeking to punish someone just because they didn’t cover their hair. It doesn’t really make sense. Still, if a woman wants to wear the niqab or hijab, it should be their choice and no one elses. I think that is far more British than Hollobone’s attempt at a ban.