The director of the “counter-extremism” think-tank the Quilliam Foundation has called for the niqab and burqa to be banned in public institutions.
Writing in the right-wing newspaper the Daily Mail, Maajid Nawaz says the burqa should be banned on security grounds given that several “terrorists” or “terrorist suspects” have fled from the authorities disguising themlseves in face veils.
He said: “Any item of clothing that covers the face and makes it impossible to identify individuals is open to abuse. Like many, I look with increasing exasperation on the niqab – which covers the face – and the burka – the garment that covers the entire body.
“That said, I do not believe in a blanket ban on the niqab. But the quid pro quo is that when everyone else in society is expected to identify themselves, a Muslim woman wearing a niqab should not be exempted.
“It is not only reasonable, but our duty to insist individuals remove the veil when they enter identity-sensitive environments such as banks, airports, courts and schools. Legally speaking, there is no basis for any exception to be made, but the sad fact is exceptions are being made because we have become too spineless to do anything about it.”
“Non devout Muslim”
Describing himself as a “non-devout Muslim,” Nawaz added that calls to resist a ban on the grounds of Islamophobia would be inevitable.
“Trumped-up accusations of Islamophobia that normally follow any attempt to instigate sensible measures to curb the potential risks associated with face-veiling are often enough to stifle debate,” he said.
“The decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to drop their plans to ban students from covering their faces on campus is a case in point. The campaign to challenge the college’s plan to ban the face veil galvanised not only Muslims but many far-Left student activists.
“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we have allowed a form of discrimination to creep in against everyone but those who wear the veil. Yes, women should be free to cover their faces when walking down the street. But in our schools, hospitals, airports, banks and civil institutions, it is not unreasonable – nor contrary to the teachings of Islam – to expect women to show the one thing that allows the rest of us to identify them . . . namely their face.”
Nawaz has caused huge controversy within the Muslim community since founding the Quilliam Foundation in 2007, an organisation which later benefitted from a huge influx of government money.
While he insists he is fighting extremism and promoting a form of Islam that is compatible with modern western society, his detractors say that he is promoting a government agenda and stoking Islamophobia.
Nawaz has been chosen by the Liberal Democrats as a parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, where Labour’s Glenda Jackson is standing down at the next General Election.