Should Burka be banned in Britain?

“I like to wear the clothes of my choice”

“I chose the lifestyle that suits me.”

“Nobody should tell me how to dress up in public because its my personal choice and basic right.”

Does this all sound familiar to you? Have you heard this recently?

Last few months saw a debate in British media about banning veil in public places, schools and certain institutions where identification is a legal requirement.

Hate crimes against women wearing Hijab rose as a result of heightened tension. It also encouraged far right fascist groups like EDL to target Muslim women wearing veil in public. Following the 9/11 incident, Muslims across the world, already have been under constant pressure. They somehow have been the target of bad media and press publicity too. They are being more closely monitored. On the other hand, the Muslim community too was outraged by the mere possibility of ban on veils.

Downing Street has suggested that it supports the possibility of bans on Muslim veils in public institutions after Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne called for a “national debate”

The debate ensued following the events at Birmingham Metropolitan College which changed its rules about Hijab in an unprecedented move. It firstly banned Muslim students from wearing niqabs – a veil that leaves only a slot for the eyes. An online petition against the ban was signed by 9,000 in 48 hours which forced the institution to drop the ban.

Although PM David Cameron, backed the decision by Metropolitan college to ban Veil, but the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said he was uneasy about the ban and believed the bar had to be set “very high” to justify any prohibition on wearing veil.

In the same month a judge ruled that Muslim women must remove the full face veil to give evidence. However, he said that women would be allowed to wear the niqab when facing trial, and called on parliament to provide a definitive answer.

Very recently a male terror suspect with links to the al-Qaeda-affiliated group Al-Shabaab evaded police by slipping out of An-Noor Masjid and Community Centre in Church Road, Acton, London.

Few weeks ago Pakistani TV channel Geo organised a debate on this topic in Jang Forum where I also shared my views. People from all walks of life including religious representatives participated in the debate who spoke for and against ban on Burka.

I am personally not in favor of any ban as I see this against British values, religious freedom and Human Rights. However I agree that due to legal requirements and identification purposes women should reveal their faces. It is not anti-Islam. Islam is a very flexible and friendly religion which understands human needs. Whatever deeds we do are judged by God and not by people. God knows the intention of every individual better. It is therefore, important to abide by rules and laws of the country in which we live.

Government and Muslim community should communicate with each others and show flexibility. There is a need for religious leaders to play positive role for community cohesion and integration. Government should also understand the possible consequences of banning veil. It would not only send wrong message to far rights but also create segregation, sense of rejection and isolation in the Muslim community. It would set a dangerous precedence against British values which would pose threats to the liberty and religious rights of other religious groups.

We live in a multicultural and multireligious society where everybody should be allowed to practice their religion freely. Nobody should be banned from wearing their religious dress. Individuals should have the right to decide what they want to wear in public as long as they follow laws and co-operate with authorities. If women do not want to wear veil it is their personal choice but those who want to wear should not be stopped or banned from doing so.

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