In British society there should be no place for the burka. Yet walk down the main road in Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Dewsbury or any other town with a large number of Muslims and you will see them everywhere. At a time when we are constantly having do gooders telling us how integration and community cohesion are so important. Yet those same do gooders are the first to defend Muslim women wearing face coverings despite the fact they only have a negative effect on integration, alienating the wearer even more.
I like many non Muslims find the burka highly offensive and intimidating. Not many people would see a burka clad woman as approachable should they be lost and needing directions or some other kind of help.
Burkas also pose a major security risk as nobody can be certain who is underneath the garment and it impossible to distinguish between wearers. Yet while motorcycle helmets, ski masks and balaclavas are barred from banks and most supermarkets, burkas are still acceptable.
Well this one wasn’t to be expected……. A Muslim leader campaigning to ban the burka. That’s right, Oxford Imam Dr Taj Hargey has repeated the call by many Brits for the anti social burka to be banned in public. The big difference here is that when critics of Islam and patriots make the same call. Muslims and their far left defenders are quick to denounce it, branding those who made the comments islamophobic, racist, fascist, Nazis or something similar. This results in the burka ban calls being quickly dismissed. In Dr Hargey’s case with him being a Muslim, that is not an option. No doubt Islamists and the far left will attempt to smear him in another way.
Forget all your Mehdi Hasan, Mo Ansar, Fiyaz Mughal and Yvonne Ridleys of this world who are constantly on our TV screens being portrayed as moderate Muslims. They are not moderate Muslims, they are Muslim apologists. They don’t wish to change Islam to be compatible with today’s Britain. They want Britain to do the changing to fall in line with Islam.
Real Muslim moderates and reformers are few and far between. Dr Taj Hargey is one of those rare types.
Why I, as a Muslim, am launching a campaign to ban the burka in Britain
- Dr Taj Hargey is the Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation and the Director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford
The increasing fashion for young Muslim women in Britain to wear the burka (in contrast to their mothers, who do not) is one of most sinister developments of our times.
Supporters of this garment like to pretend that it is a welcome symbol of our society’s multicultural diversity and philosophical tolerance. But such warped thinking is woefully misguided. In reality, the burka is an archaic tribal piece of cloth that is eagerly used by fundamentalist zealots to promote a toxic brand of extremist non-Koranic theology.
Everyone in Britain, including Muslims, should oppose the insidious spread of this vile piece of clothing, which imprisons women, threatens social harmony, fuels distrust, has grave health implications and is a potent security risk.
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Dr Taj Hargey is launching a nationwide campaign to impose a ban on face masks, including burkas, in public spaces in Britain
Contrary to the claims of its advocates, it has nothing to do with Islam but is a cultural fad imported from Saudi Arabia and primitive parts of the Islamic world.
That is why this week, with the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, I am launching a nationwide campaign to impose a ban on face masks in public spaces in Britain.
Such a nationwide prohibition would deal with all types of covering, including balaclavas, but there would be no exemption for the burka/niqab on any spurious, politically correct grounds of religious conscience.
One of the key purposes of this initiative is to persuade at least 100,000 people to sign a formal petition calling for the ban, thereby obliging Parliament to debate the issue.
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.
There is no religious requirement on Muslims to don the burka, and no evidence in the Koran to support the wearing of the garment
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.
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.
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.
The French ban has proved to be legally sound as well as sensible. I have long believed that the same measure should be introduced here in the UK to prevent community separatism and social apartheid. And, like the ECHR, I see no basis for the pretence that there is any religious sanction for the burka.
The wearing of the face mask is a custom originating in ancient Persia and Byzantium, more than 1,000 years before the birth of Islam. It was upheld by male aristocrats because of social snobbery rather than religion, since they did not want their womenfolk — wives, daughters, sisters or mothers — to be seen by the peasantry.
Dr Taj Hargey on why he opposes the wearing of burkas
According to Dr Hargey, everyone in Britain, including Muslims, should oppose the insidious spread of the burka, which he says imprisons women, threatens social harmony, fuels distrust, has grave health implications and is a potent security risk
Nor is there any evidence in the Koran to support the wearing of the burka. Indeed, the Holy Book stipulates that men ‘should lower their gaze’ when meeting women to avoid lecherous staring (verse 24, chapter 30). So logically, if women were fully covered up there would be no need for such an instruction.
Some Muslim clergy claim that the burka is religiously necessary. They assert this because the Prophet Muhammad’s wives allegedly hid their faces in public.
These puritanical clerics do not base their theological misrepresentations on the Koran but on the subsidiary and suspect hadith (a collection of books containing the reputed sayings of Muhammad, written 250 years after his death).
‘It is forbidden for Muslim women going on pilgrimages to Mecca to cover their faces. So if such a pre-Islamic practice is banned in Islam’s holiest site, why on earth would it be required on the streets of Britain?’
In any case, this is a wilful misreading of scripture. In fact, verse 32 of chapter 33 in the Koran explicitly states that ‘the Prophet’s wives are not like other women’. So there is no reason to emulate them.
Just as revealingly, it is forbidden for Muslim women going on pilgrimages to Mecca to cover their faces. So if such a pre-Islamic practice is banned in Islam’s holiest site, why on earth would it be required on the streets of Britain?
The truth is that there is no theological foundation for these separatist face masks, as most non-fundamentalists recognise. Only recently, Al-Azhar, the leading institution of Muslim theology in the Islamic world, declared that the burka has no spiritual authenticity.
Theology apart, there are many other compelling arguments against the burka. It badly undermines social cohesion by inhibiting effective interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims in the public realm. There can be no meaningful exchange with people if you cannot even see their faces.
Moreover, the burka is an affront to the concept of gender parity in the UK.
If I tried to wear a ski-mask on a bus or at a bank, I would quickly be told to remove the item or leave, or be arrested. Why should the same rules not apply to Muslim women?
Dr Hargey’s proposals for a nationwide prohibition would deal with all types of facial covering, including balaclavas
The demand for equal rights has always been central to the feminist cause, and in this case feminists should be calling for men and women to be treated equally. Either everyone has the right to mask their face or no one has.
There are huge implications for security, after several cases of terrorists and criminals using the burka to evade detection — a particularly worrying development given the explicit, bloody threats of militant extremists. In our troubled world, there can be no absolute right to anonymity in public.
‘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’
Another concern is the health risks, for full coverings mean a distinct lack of exposure to sunshine. One recent study of 203 burka-clad women in the United Arab Emirates revealed that all but four were deficient in Vitamin D.
If that can happen in a land of blazing heat, how much worse will be the problems in often damp, dark Britain? Our society is already seeing rises in rickets and other bone-related diseases for the first time since World War II.
Supporters of the burka talk about freedom of choice — yet it is not women who are being given that freedom, but men who are imposing their will. That is not empowerment but imprisonment.
The burka is just another weapon in the jihadist arsenal of misogyny, like forced marriage, female genital mutilation and sexist discrimination. It should have no part in British society, where women are supposed to be treated as equal citizens. By tolerating it, we are allowing a form of gender apartheid to grow in our midst.
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.